AN AUSTRALIAN mounted police officer has given his support to his colleagues in Essex who are facing the axe.

Under cost-cutting plans Essex Police intend to disband the mounted unit, re-deploying nine officers to the front line and two civilian grooms to other duties.

Jason Burnham, a former Essex Police officer, now serves with the West Australia Mounted Police Section, based in Perth.

Mr Burnham has described the plans as “short-sighted” in an open letter, and says each mounted cop is worth ten on the ground.

He said: “I have seen first hand how valuable mounted officers can be, so much so that WAMP is due for expansion.

“I understand officers will be able to be on the frontline with this saving. In my 22 years of policing experience I have never done such a high profile frontline job as the Mounties, in fact it has astounded me.

“I agree Mounties may not get all the measurable performance figures as most of the work they do cannot be actively measured, for example public reassurance, public relations with visits and daytime town patrols, preventative patrols, public order, crime spike patrols, searches and intelligence.

“I feel most of these are worth far more than crime detections and large amounts of traffic process. One cannot measure the amount of crime a mounted patrol would have prevented. When we patrol an area which has been hit for burglaries it is not uncommon for the rate to drop to zero.

“A statistic which is commonly used is that a mounted officer is worth 10 on the ground when it comes to public order and suburban patrols therefore statistically the extra officers gained by losing Mounties needs thinking about.

“Our unit has been so popular we have had to turn down numerous requests for patrols from districts who are planning operations to target car crime and burglaries. At weekends we patrol Perth’s busy nightspot and have introduced a night 'roving patrol' where we have a two horse box which patrols and responds to calls or patrols busy areas.

“I feel the disbandment of the section could turn out to be short sighted, only to find it reformed again at a later date - as has happened previously - at the tax payers expense being a lot more than that.”

Essex Police's Assistant Chief Constable Sue Harrison said: “We are aware of the affection with which the force’s mounted section is held by the public and the decision to disband it, subject to ongoing consultation, is made reluctantly.

“However in balancing the need to provide the best and most effective policing service possible to our communities and the need to reduce costs difficult decisions have to be made.”