What does it take to be a good mounted police officer? Mounted police are an elite bunch: Just eight officers are teamed up with horses in Helsinki, for example.
So what does it take to be a good mounted police officer?
Mounted police officers. It takes a special person to provide public safety and event security on horseback. Among the attributes of a good mounted police officer:
Police horses. Riders are just one part of the patrol unit. It also takes a special kind of horse to do police work. Here's what the team looks for in a horse:
The Finnish force buys horses with the right physical attributes on the open market. Then they undergo intensive training to get used to dealing with sudden noises, traffic and crowds without becoming stressed.
Mounted police typically work pre-planned operations, rather than emergencies.
For example, riders support sporting events. They help manage the crowds around the entrances. They're also on hand to intervene if any trouble starts up during the matches.
Horses and riders also make celebrity appearances at fairs and other public events. There, they engage with the public, who enjoy the opportunity to get some hands-on contact with the magnificent animals.
Riding atop a horse makes it easier for mounted police officers to see and be seen compared to, say, officers on foot — especially in crowds. And officers report that being on horseback rather than in a car makes them both more approachable and more authoritative when dealing with members of the public who aren't quite so friendly.
Whether they're meeting and greeting or controlling a hostile demonstration, good communication is essential for mounted police officers.
Helsinki officers use a laptop-based POKE field command system in their cars. But lugging a laptop is impractical on horseback. So the mounted team members use hand-held TETRA radios and send voice and status messages over the Virve authority network. Some officers also use accessories that allow them to operate their radios hands-free.
The biggest challenge for the radios is cold weather. The riders patrol all year round, and low temperatures deplete battery power more quickly. Fortunately, the structure of mounted police officers' typical day allows them to recharge if necessary.