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Mounted police: once pride of city force,now an idea again

Home Minister Jayant Patil has become the latest to press for the return of the mounted police,once the backbone of policing in the city.

Written by Smita Nair | Mumbai |
June 29, 2009 2:55:50 am

Home Minister Jayant Patil has become the latest to press for the return of the mounted police,once the backbone of policing in the city. The idea,35 horses to handle demonstrations on grounds like Azad Maidan,was among Patil’s suggestions last week for upgrading the police. On a visit to Johannesburg,he had seen mounted police manning a stadium crowd.

Bombay’s mounted police were disbanded in the 1930s but such squads thrive across the world. In Tokyo they control traffic; in American cities such as New York they monitor crowds in parks; in London Metropolitan they control mobs. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police,one of the world’s oldest,even has federal and judicial powers.

A Scotland Yard anecdote goes that in the 1940s,when the Ministry of Home Security invited Sir Harold Scott to head the metropolitan commissionerate,the request included a simple question: “Can you ride a horse?” Scott went on to become an accomplished commissioner.

Ahmedabad Police carry out night patrols with mounted cops,with much of the apparatus modelled on that of the Bombay Police. One advantage is the “show of force”,says Commissioner S K Saikia.

Kolkata Police have 67 horses are on the streets. “It would be a pleasure to invite Mumbai Police and discuss how we use this great institution,” says Javed Shamim,DC (HQ). “We use mounted police to handle demonstrations. We only need four mounted inspectors where a normal unit would need 50 constables.”

The Bombay Police’s horses were imported Australian Walers,even tempered,sturdy and efficient in crowd situations. Police officers have often suggested that a revival. In the 1970s,DIG (Aurangabad range) S Ramamurthi had made a concrete proposal,later turned down for cost.

There are many aspects to consider. J B Gohil,in charge of the mounted police training academy in Ahmedabad,says: “If Mumbai is looking at mounted police,they will need to budget for stable management,buying well-bred horses,training and proper food. It takes 41 weeks to transform a horse into a police horse.”

“On Mumbai’s roads of tar or cement,there is a possibility of horses slipping. Also,crowds can be aggressive. But if trained well,a horse squad can help patrol grounds and lanes between buildings,” said former DGP K P Medhekar.

Another former DGP,Arvind Inamdar,said: “A study is necessary. Aggressive crowds in Mumbai can make it difficult for mounted police.”

It was during Inamdar’s tenure that the Nashik Academy got half a dozen horses. “A horse is a great asset in police training. It helps a trainee learn how to control a mob,gives him courage and presence of mind.”

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