The Police Service of Northern Ireland’s commitment to keeping people safe has been given a significant boost with the recruitment of six new four-legged friends.
In addition to the units based at Sprucefield and Clogher, a new Dog Section is now based in Maydown. From here, six new police dog handlers and their canine partners will cover a wide area, from the Ports on the North Coast to Fermanagh and Omagh, where they will respond to calls for service.
Chief Inspector Chris Hamill says Belgian Shepherds Rico, Nico, Poker, Nora, Jax and Kelly are powerful additions to policing. Their skills include searching for missing persons, tracking suspects and the recovery of recently discarded articles of an evidential nature. They also protect their handler and other officers in dangerous situations.
“The new handlers and their dogs are ready for operational duties and, over the coming weeks, they’ll be out and about, meeting Local Policing Team officers to introduce them to our dogs and explain how we can help them serve the community better, not only through their operational roles but by engaging with the local communities at various events," says Chief Inspector Hamill.
‘More than just a job’
Being a dog handler is ‘more than just a job’, says Chief Inspector Hamill. He says it involves a long term commitment from the officers.
“The dogs live with their handlers,” he says. “Not only are they part of the wider police family but, first and foremost, they’re an integral part of the handler’s family. For the handler they are literally taking their work home, every day, and it’s the handler’s responsibility to make sure their dog is in peak physical condition, and that they’re disciplined and fit for work each day.”
Both handlers and dogs are subject to regular and rigorous assessment which is tough, physically and mentally, for both dog and handler.
“The handler gets to work and develop their skills along with the dog from when they’re a puppy through to the rest of their working life. They get to share so many rewarding experiences along the way,” says Chief Inspector Hamill, who added: “There’s no doubt being a dog handler is a tough and challenging job, but it’s unique and extremely rewarding for both the handler and their dog.”
‘The best job’
Dog handler Jess is excited to join the Dog Section in Maydown with her loyal friend, Police Dog Rico, a cross between a Belgian Shepherd and a Dutch Herder.
"Being a dog handler is the best job in police, without a doubt. The bond you develop with them is something else. I enjoy seeing Rico get out at a call and switch on to whatever task he needs to do. He loves his job just as much as I do. Also, seeing how much he progresses and deals with various situations is very rewarding,” she says. “Before I became a dog handler I was based in Strand Road in the Local Policing Team so I know first-hand how useful a dog would be. There is a large variation in calls within the area and having a dog there to assist would be a great help. Not only that, everyone loves dogs!”
Derry City and Strabane Chief Inspector Michael O’Loan says having the unit based in Maydown is ‘a wonderful asset’ for the North West and the wider area.
“The public can look forward to seeing man’s best friend on duty, across the District and further afield in the North West area, working to detect and prevent crime," says Chief Inspector O'Loan. "It’s great to have a Dog Section based in Maydown and I’ve no doubt our talented and intelligent police dogs and their handlers will make a positive contribution to keeping us all safe.”