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The Essex Police Dog Section welcomed four new canine recruits and two new handlers into their ranks at a ceremony at their Sandon base.
Police dogs Raven (German Shepherd), Max (German Shepherd), Freddie (Belgian Malinois) and Denver (German Shepherd) have joined the team alongside newly-qualified handlers PC Liss Johnston and PC Adam Hanbury.
PC Johnston and PD Raven, PC Hanbury and PD Max, and experienced handers PC Sam Williams with PD Denver, and PC Paul Arthey with PD Freddie were presented with certificates by Superintendent Phil Stinger in front of an audience of friends, family and colleagues to mark the completion of a 13-week training course.
There were also certificates and flowers for puppy walkers Linda Plair and Kim Stacey who played a vital role in nurturing PDs Denver and Max.
The officers then led their fearless four-legged companions through an entertaining outdoor display as the dogs chased down suspects, identified evidence and apprehended armed men with all the discipline and control that will help keep the streets of Essex safe.
The section has 25 handlers and 46 dogs, with just under half of the animals having specialist skills in detecting drugs, explosives, forensics and digital media devices.
Course instructor PC Jim Beaird explained what qualities the team look for in both dogs and handlers.
He said: “It’s a tough course, possibly the toughest course in the police. It’s long, we’re outside in all weathers, and when the handler goes home at night, the dog goes home with them.
“Over the 13 weeks we teach the dogs obedience, agility, searching, tracking, biting and not biting, and bonding with the handler. The dogs need to be bold, confident, sociable and have a willingness to learn and investigate.
“The dogs have skills that human don’t. They track and catch people and uncover evidence that plays a massive part in helping to put criminals behind bars.
“To be a handler you need to be a proactive police officer and have a passion for dogs because it takes over your life. You live with them, and the only time your dog isn’t with you is when you’re on leave. It’s a huge commitment for the officer and their family. We look for people who want to go that extra mile.”
Becoming a police dog handler is incredibly competitive with opportunities to join the team rare.
PC Liss Johnston was encouraged to apply by her former sergeant and is now one of four female dog handlers. She previously worked as a local policing team officer in Rayleigh. She has been told she is only the tenth female dog handler recruited in the past 70 years.
She said: “I love dogs and when I joined the police, I knew this was where I wanted to be. It’s happened sooner than I expected.
“Raven can be very temperamental, and it’s been quite a tough journey with her, but we’ve come out the other side and to be out here with her is a huge reward. This is what I’ve always dreamed of and now I’m here.”
As the Head of Specialist Operations, Supt Phil Stinger said the work the dogs and handlers do in helping to bring criminals to justice is absolutely essential.
“The Dog Section is vital, and the force wouldn’t function as well as it does without the support the dogs provide. It was fantastic to see the discipline the dogs have, even in front of a large crowd they wouldn’t be used to. The message to any criminal is clear; you can’t run from our dogs. They will track you down and detain you.”
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