South Yorkshire’s police mounted section has moved back into the county barely two years after the horses and riders were switched to shared premises in Wakefield under a cost saving plan with the West Yorkshrie force.
New Chief Constable Stephen Watson has taken the decision to switch the horses and their riders back to Ring Farm at Cudworth in Barnsley and has had spending of £275,000 on the premises, with the investment approved by Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings.
That will bring the premises, which had been standing vacant, up to a better condition than when the nine horses and the staff who look after them moved out.
The horses, all named after locations in the county, are regarded with affection by the public and the decision to relocate them back to their old stables, where the unit had been based since the early 1990s, is likely to prove popular.
It also means the horses will be more immediately available for duties in the county, rather than having the geographical obstacle of being based 12 miles beyond the county boundary, at Carr Gate.
Anger as South Yorkshire Police mounted section’s move outside the county is delayed
However, it is a u-turn on a policy which had at one point appeared to signal a merger between South and West Yorkshire Police’s two mounted units.
South Yorkshire is one of only 11 forces left with horses in the country and the section is regarded as an important component of policing the county’s five football grounds as well as other duties such as public reassurance patrols.
Supt Simon Wanless said: “We very much value them in our county. They are used a great deal for football policing and also for community engagement and community reassurance.
“They are a real crowd-puller, people really get engaged with the mounted officers,” he said.
The Carr Gate base had been used as an exercise in sharing costs with the West Yorkshire force, but had created difficulties.
“It wasn’t an efficient way of using them,” said Supt Wanless, “We were inherently building in delays for them.
“It made sense to have our resources in our county, working for us and being best able to support South Yorkshire,” he said.
Dr Billings, who authorised the investment in Ring Farm, said: “They are expensive but are brilliant in certain situations, crowd control being the main one.
“We feel here it is right to keep them, we have five football teams and a history of marches. They are invaluable, certainly with football.”
South Yorkshire’s police horses are also used nationally when major events take place and there were transferred to London for the 2012 Olympics, as well as major conferences when world leaders converge on this country.
The move to separate the two mounted sections dismantles another of the arrangements put in place while Mr Watson’s predecessor, David Crompton, was chief constable.
Mr Crompton was also responsible for scrapping the county’s teams of neighbourhood police, a decision which proved disastrous with the force quickly acknowledging it had lost a valuable source of contact with the communities is serves.
The neighbourhood policing system has now been re-established.