Hampshire police volunteer horse patrols scheme slammed
A police initiative to use horse-riding volunteers to patrol rural areas of Hampshire has been criticised by the police union.
The Hampshire Horsewatch scheme will see 12 civilian horse riders in branded uniforms looking out for suspicious activity and reporting to the police.
Hampshire Constabulary said it would help in times of financial pressures.
But Hampshire Police Federation criticised it as a "blurring of the line" between police and the public.
Chairman John Apter said: "We've reached a sad point when we are relying on volunteers in a police-style uniform on horses to have mounted patrols."
End Quote Wendy Thairs Hampshire Horsewatch volunteer
The thin blue line has been stretched as far as it can go, so the rural community has to stand up and be counted”
"It's conning the public, relying on well-meaning volunteers in front-facing roles will cause confusion and gives the impression there are more police on patrol than there actually are."
He said he would be seeking a meeting with the chief constable over the initiative.'Payback time'
The 12 volunteers will patrol areas around Emsworth, Manor Farm and Country Park near Hedge End, Hook, the New Forest and Liphook.
David Collings, Hampshire Horsewatch co-ordinator, said: "With the reduction of funding being experienced within the police service there is a need to be as dynamic and imaginative as we can to cover rural policing in Hampshire."
The initiative is an attempt to deal with issues such as theft of equine equipment, fly-tipping, metal thefts, deer poaching and sheep rustling.
The force said the riders would have no more power of arrest than any other member of the public and their patrols would be "intelligence/information led to give them purpose and enable them to be proactive".
The unpaid recruits would work up to eight hours a week and would go through an "application procedure and security check".
New Forest volunteer Wendy Thairs said: "The thin blue line has been stretched as far as it can go, so the rural community has to stand up and be counted.
"Having suffered from rural crime, but luckily our equipment was found and returned undamaged, it's now 'pay back time'."