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Pretty police face public probe

By Chang Meng (Global Times)

13:14, May 31, 2013

For over a decade, the photogenic mounted policewomen of Dalian, a scenic city in Liaoning Province, have been a tourist draw card. A legacy of former mayor Bo Xilai, who is now disgraced and is to be put on trial for corruption, they provide both photo opportunities and law enforcement.

However, when retired traffic cop Zhao Ming, 64, filed an application for information on the costs, personnel and effectiveness of the mounted unit, the legitimacy of these police was called into question.

"Maintenance costs are huge for a mounted team while the budget is very tight, and it's inappropriate for police to be used as decoration when their duty is to secure public safety," Zhao told the Global Times.

The Dalian mounted police unit, the nation's first, was established in 1994. Its main functions include street patrols, parade performances for VIPs, and providing security at important events and expos.

Although Zhao was just suggesting reforms, public debate quickly focused on whether or not to scrap the unit entirely.

An online survey by Sina showed that 61 percent of the 430,000 respondents regarded it as merely a troop of "pretty faces" and supported disbanding it, but many Dalian citizens backed it, citing city pride.

"I like it and it does bring great cultural value to our city, but necessary reforms should be carried out when police forces deviate from their core responsibility," said Zhao.

Cops or photo ops?

"We love them as a name card for our city because they're so pretty and brave. We have every right to decide whether we want to pay and keep them," Zhang Qian, a Dalian citizen, told the Global Times, in comments echoed by many others.

Several other cities including Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, and Baotou, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, have also founded similar mounted teams consisting of beautiful, well-trained female officers, mainly for "patrol and demonstration."

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