Police to introduce horseback squad

It's horses for courses in the Southern district police area.

The district has gone back to its early policing roots and is putting officers on horseback for special occasions.

As with much of the country, there is a long history of mounted constabulary across Otago Coastal, Otago Lakes Central, and Southland.

With a nod to that style of policing, several enthusiastic uniformed staff who own or have access to horses are preparing to attend rural events in a support and engagement role.

"Our staff are part of our communities, so having some staff occasionally on horseback enables us to engage with local people at events such as A&P shows," organiser Inspector James Ure, of Dunedin, said.

"We’ve had tremendous success with the police-branded tractor drawing crowds.

"Having some officers on horseback gives us the opportunity to be even more approachable to the people we serve."

He also hoped the public seeing police on horseback would highlight the diversity of people and roles in police and positively promote it as a career choice.

Southern district police’s new horseback squad for special occasions (from left) Constable Olivia...
Southern district police’s new horseback squad for special occasions (from left) Constable Olivia Winbush, on Bentley; Constable Ashleigh Smail, on Lulu; Inspector James Ure; Constable Brittany Whelan, on Barney; and Constable Melissa Wallace, on Maotai. PHOTO: NEW ZEALAND POLICE
While the horses and officers would not be dispatched to incidents while attending events, officers would be wearing uniform and could "act as an approachable beacon for the public".

The horses would be dressed in hi-vis quarter sheets, with police embroidery added from decommissioned fluoro vests.

Each animal would have ear bonnets with police insignia and their boots would sport blue and white chevrons.

Constable Olivia Winbush, of Waikouaiti, one of the officers who planned to ride at rural events, said it was another way to reach out to the public and engage with them on a different level.

"This is just another element in which we can reach out to the public and engage with them on a different level.

"It gives the public a chance to see us as people and break down barriers and encourages them to come and talk to us, if for no other reason than a kid pats the pony, and it starts a conversation," she said.

Const Winbush was one of four staff involved in the initiative who came together with their horses at the A&P showgrounds in Mosgiel in July to trial working together and try out the equestrian equipment.

Police dog Gill and handler Tim Roy were also there, to confirm an operational dog and the horses could work together harmoniously.

As well as agricultural shows, there were options to attend Christmas parades, Anzac Day services, police open days and Young Farmer events.

Two riders who have offered to be part of the team have a rich equestrian pedigree — Constable Brittany Whelan has been a competitive showjumper and Constable Melissa Wallace a competitive eventer.

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