There's something about horses that can bring a smile to our faces. And the animals may come with a likeness-by-association when it comes to their riders, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and RAND Europe found that people tend to like police officers more when they're on horseback. The findings suggest that the animals act as an "ice-breaker," attracting positive responses from citizens, as well as heightening visibility. Officers riding horses had six times as many interactions with pedestrians as officers on foot, almost all of which were quite friendly.
The quick takeaway: Mounted patrols had a beneficial effect on trust and confidence of police.
"In community settings, the horse and rider combination appears to act as a sort of ambassador and 'ice-breaker' for the police," study co-author Dr. Ben Bradford, from the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford, said in a news release. "People come up to say 'hello' or to make a fuss of the horse before having a quick conversation with the officer. Although most of the exchanges we saw were brief, they tended to be very friendly, and the patrols increased police visibility."
Throughout the 18-month study, the influence of mounted units were evaluated in different roles. The researchers looked at public reactions to the horseriding officers on neighborhood patrols, a music festival, soccer matches and public demonstrations. Across all of the events, mounted units were seen to encourage greater interaction between police and the public. Visibility, among other things, is believed to be a big part of this.
"Many people react positively to greater police visibility in their neighborhood, and we believe this translated into higher levels of trust and confidence in the areas where the mounted patrols took place," Bradford told the source.