Have You Got What it Takes to be a Mounted Police Officer?


NAME: Tariq Butt

JOB TITLE: Specialist Operations and Mounted Unit Inspector – including firearms, dogs, mounted unit and interceptors, tactical aid unit (riot police) for Greater Manchester Mounted Police

How long have you been a police officer?

15 years

How long have you been in the mounted police?

12 months – it’s my dream job. I really enjoy horses and I am learning a lot. There are only 12 mounted units in the country – it costs £1.7 million a year to run a unit such as ours and we are always under the spotlight when it comes to budgets.

What made you decide to go into police force?

I wanted a career rather than a job. I joined at 21 and wanted the variety – no two days are the same, and you are privy to lots of things people don’t see.

What qualifications did you need?

No formal qualifications actually, but you do have to pass an entrance test for maths and English skills.

Can you apply to be in the mounted police specifically or do you have to be in general police service first?

You have to join as a police officer first. You complete your two year probationary period and then you can apply for a specialism, for example CID to be a detective, or a dog handler, firearms, or mounted. It is a very competitive process, and openings in the mounted division are rare. You apply internally via an application form, you may then get an interview, and if you pass that you go to the mounted unit for a week where your a suitability is assessed.

Do you have to be able to ride?

No, you don’t have to be able to ride, if we think you may be suitable after your interview and assessment, you go on a 16 week course, and either pass or fail at the end of it. There is a 50% pass rate, and if you fail, you go back to the police post you came from.

How long can you stay in the mounted unit once you are in?

Generally people will stay in the mounted unit for years – no one has ever asked to leave! We have 21 officers in the mounted unit, as well as a team of civilian police staff trainers, an equine manager and grooms who do all the amazing prep work for the horses and get us out and about. The officers also get stuck in and do the mucking out, cleaning the horses and horsebox etc. Sometimes I have to explain to other officers that when we have finished at a football match or event, it’s not about just going back to the station, we have to do all the work for the horses as well to make sure they are comfortable. It can be very hard work!

The ceremonial tack room

Do the mounted officers have their own allocated horse or do they ride all of them?

Yes, they have one main horse they ride – it’s important for that horse/rider bond that there is a continuity there, but they also have a second horse in case their primary horse is lame or not available when needed for whatever reason.

Describe a typical day of a mounted police officer

If there are no major events on, we do a lot of community policing. So, in the morning we have a briefing for the officers, and having mucked out, groomed etc we take the horses out on patrol –either on their own or in pairs. We will choose an area in the local community and our job is to speak to people, show a presence where there are issues such as car crime. We also focus on road safety – we are currently involved in a campaign with the British Horse Society – Think Horse Think 15 to educate motorists around how to pass horses.

Is the job equally accessible to women as men?

Yes! Although the job is open to men and women, the vast majority are women officers actually!

What are the best parts of the job?

Working with animals – they don’t judge or talk back! There’s plenty of variety too – football matches, political party conferences, road closures for marathons and fun runs – we attend all the major events.

How quickly can you mobilise the unit if it’s needed?

We can be out anywhere in Greater Manchester within the hour depending on where everyone is when we get the call.

What are the worst parts of the job?

Mucking out and dealing with animals that are unpredictable – but really that’s a tough question to answer!

What are the hazards of the job?

Your own fitness is important and we have a physio who comes in to help prevent injuries.

Who would you recommend this to as a career?

It’s open to all – whether you are a police officer or not, there are opportunities to get involved.

What qualities do you think someone needs to have to do this job?

A lot of patience, the basics with the horse – and all the rest we can work on. Flexibility is also key as there is a lot of weekend work.

Will this job make you rich?

No – that’s no great secret though!

Will this job make you happy?

Yes, definitely!

Best piece of advice to someone considering becoming a mounted police officer as a career?

Learn as much about the job as you can beforehand, and make sure it’s right for you. Come a visit the unit to get a feel for what it’s all about. You don’t need to have extra riding lessons – just show an interest, and a knowledge of horses would help!

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