With a current authorised strength of 18 officers, four support staff and 20 experienced patrol mounts and a number of young horses in training, today's Mounted section offers a different style of policing to when it first began here in Perth, in 1834.
Our staff are drawn from serving WA Police Force officers and particular emphasis is placed on recruiting officers with frontline operational experience. Horse riding/handling skills are not essential, as all staff undergo a substantial riding course upon joining the section, and regular 3 monthly assessments throughout their tenure.
The roles of our Mounted Police
Mounted policing has re-emerged as an extremely relevant way of policing in the 21st century. The Mounted section offers a unique policing service throughout the State of Western Australia, and covers the largest policing jurisdiction in the world. The section deploys to Metro and Regional WA, deploying as far as Broome in the Kimberleys, east to the Kalgoorlie Goldfields and south to Albany.
The police horse is unique in that it provides an officer with an excellent 360 degree view of his surroundings from a greater height than a foot officer, with the added advantage of being able to manoeuvre the highly trained horse in confined areas, in crowds and able to cover ground quickly. This provides the officer with a highly effective way of policing in sometimes a volatile and dangerous environment.
Generally our roles can be summarised as:
- Responding to anti-social behaviour issues in Perth’s nightspots
- High visibility and targeted patrols throughout WA
- Searches for missing persons, particuarly in areas where Officers are unable to efficiently search on foot or vehicle, such as Bush land.
- Beach patrols at known trouble spots
- Highly mobile responses to out of control gatherings, protests, demonstrations and riots
- Limited ceremonial duties such as the Anzac Day Parade, Police recruit graduation parades and VIP escorts (now account for less than 0.5% of our time)
How many horses does the Mounted Section have?
Presently we have 20 operational horses, with several younger horses at various levels of training.
Which breeds of horses does the Mounted Section use?
We prefer draft breeds, for their stamina and temperament, such as Clydesdales, Clydesdale crosses and Percheron crosses. The type of work we do requires the Police Officer to spend long hours in the saddle and the working breeds are most suitable for this.
How does the Mounted Section get its horses?
Our horses are sourced from Western Australia where possible, through local advertising and referrals, but due to the specific requirements of a potential police horse sometimes it is not possible to find suitable horses locally, and we look to the other states, nationwide, for purchases. Western Australia Mounted Section does not run a breeding program, as this has proved to not be cost effective.
Where are police horses kept?
WA Police horses are stabled at the Maylands Police Complex at Swanbank Road.
What does a horse need to become a police horse?
Police horses need to be low reactive in nature and able to withstand high pressure situations that police officers find themselves in. By nature horses are ‘flight’ animals, whose first response is to flee from unfamiliar and frightening situations. However, through careful training and assessment, considering the welfare of the animal, only those that show the right traits are selected. Our senior staff who undertake the selection of horses are very experienced equestrians as well as being long term operational police officers.
What training do police horses undergo?
Police horses and riders are trained to cope with all aspects of police work including patrolling, riots and crowd control situations, missing person searches and ceremonial duties such as the Anzac Day Parade. This is accomplished by well-practiced horsemanship as well as exposing horses and riders to cross country riding (jumps), cattle work, nuisance and public order (riot) training. Different methods and equipment are used to acquaint the horses with loud noises, large crowds, smoke and the many obstacles that they may experience on the road. This is done progressively ensuring that the remount (new horse) is able to withstand each phase of their training before moving to the next level. From time to time horses will have to go back to school and be retrained. The individual rider maintains a close relationship with their horse ensuring that when retraining is needed the horse is provided with the best schooling available.
How do I become a Mounted Patrol Officer?
All police officers who have completed their two-year probation period are eligible to apply, however only officers with plenty of frontline policing experience and a good level of physical fitness and coordination should apply. Riding experience is not essential. We take a lot of pride in training non-riders to a level where they can ride a police horse effectively in a volatile policing environment. Police riding is unlike any other form of riding. The volatility of the situations we face requires our riders and horses to react instinctively, whilst at the same time ensuring the safety of the public, police and the horses at all times. Our annual week-long selection course covers all aspects of Mounted Police duties and riding. Officers who successfully complete the course go into a selection pool and fill subsequent vacancies as they occur.
Can I pat the horses?
Whilst the Mounted Section’s horses are calmer than the average horse due to the nature of work for which they are selected, it is important to remember that all horses have the capacity to bite and kick.
If you wish to pat a Police horse please ask the rider first. Usually they will be more than accommodating, but please don’t be offended if they say no – they might be riding a horse that is in training, does not like being touched, or has just been in a stressful situation and needs some time to calm.
Most importantly, as with all horses, don’t put your hands near their mouth, and avoid standing immediately behind them.