Police fear 'gap in frontline' after mounted unit cut
POLICE officers have said they fear the loss of the force's mounted section will leave a "gap in the frontline".
Chief Constable Tim Hollis has decided to axe the unit, comprising six horses and police officers, to save £500,000 a year.
The decision was made as the force battles to cut £11m from its budget over the next five years.
But the move has been criticised by the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers.
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Humberside chairman, John Blanchard, said: "The fact is, despite assurances these cuts won't affect frontline policing, this is evidence of them hitting the frontline.
"They are a very high- profile resource and this shows that hard times make for hard choices."
The six police officers based at the unit in Walkington are likely to be redeployed in other areas of the force, while the three staff members who run the stables face redundancy.
After the section is scrapped, the stables are likely to be sold.
When the unit is disbanded in March next year, the force will have to hire horses from other police forces for high- profile football matches and events such as Hull Fair.
Mr Blanchard said: "We have to rely on other forces keeping their mounted sections and them being prepared to rent them out to us.
"If they close their mounted sections, or won't hire the horses out because their force takes priority, then we won't have that capacity anymore.
"The horses are very good at what they do and, if we don't have them, it will potentially mean having extra numbers of police officers at things such as football matches or to carry out large searches for missing people.
"It does create a gap in the frontline."
Mr Blanchard said members of the public also value seeing the horses.
"They are a great attraction for the public. People love seeing the horses, stroking them and feeding them, and it gets people to approach police.
"It is sad it has come to this. You have to ask, 'what's next?'
"The horses are one of the key resources we have that the public like to see and they are quite versatile.
"Clearly, though, this will save a lot of money and the chief and commissioner believe that could be better spent elsewhere."
Mr Hollis said he decided to disband the unit after a review lasting months.
"This was not an easy decision to make," he said.
"Humberside Police has always had a mounted branch, and I have a high regard for the work they do, but this is back to the harsh reality of where we are now.
"Most police forces do not have a mounted section and the occasions when they are a necessity are relatively few."