‘Violence like nothing they had seen before’: Bravery award for police horses and officers

  • Horses and officers were recognised for their bravery in policing a riot in Bristol city centre with an award presented in front of thousands of spectators at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

    On 21 March, Avon and Somerset Police’s mounted team, alongside their non-mounted colleagues, faced rioters outside Bristol’s Bridewell Police Station. Earlier in the day, a peaceful protest had been held against the contentious Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

    Police vans were attacked and missiles were thrown at officers.

    “What our officers and horses experienced were levels of violence like nothing they had seen before,” said chief superintendent Claire Armes, head of operational support directorate at Avon and Somerset Police.

    “The courage and resilience they displayed was a credit to their characters, their training and to the outstanding bonds of loyalty and trust that our officers have built with their horses.

    “Seeing our mounted section team recognised for their professionalism, bravery, dedication and commitment with such a prestigious award makes us immensely proud and we thank them, and all of their colleagues who experienced the terrible events in March, for their outstanding work in protecting the public and their colleagues.

    “Our police horses have played a major role in every single public order incident in Avon and Somerset in the last 30 years, helping us contain and manage major incidents, protect the public and prevent injuries. They are, beyond doubt, a hugely valuable asset to our service.”

    After the event, police sergeant Hannah Clarke said that it was the highest level of aggression she had ever experienced in her career.

    “You could hear on the radio officers pressing their emergency buttons asking for more units,” she said.

    She added that the horses – Mendip, Somerset, Windsor, Trinity, Blaise and Clevedon – were “just amazing”.

    Several of the team worked 17-hour shifts, 12 of which were spent in the saddle, before carrying out reassurance patrols the following day. The officers remained on duty all week.

    A second night of hostility followed another peaceful demonstration five days later and the team again rose to the challenge.

    PS Clarke and PCs Tracey Small, Beth Enright, Tristan Smith, Rowan Webber and Trudi Wilsher were presented with the inaugural police horse and officer action of the year award by the chief constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary, Rod Hansen QPM, the National Police Chiefs’ council’s lead for aviation, mounted policing and police dogs.

    PCs Helen DuHeaume and Amy Huxtable, who had been part of the mounted patrol team on March 26, were also in attendance.

    Other mounted officers and grooms, including stable manager Jon Green, Kelly Wanstall, Natalie Box, Sara Treble and Darryl Snow, joined the presentation in recognition for their commitment and care for the horses.

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