PSNI canine team grows in numbers as ‘outstanding results’ keep coming


The PSNI’s investment in police dogs is higher than ever and is expected to increase as senior brass testify to their staggering results.

These dogs are, of course, equipped with world-class equipment – a nose that is half a million times more effective than that of their masters.

And each of the 29 police dogs currently on duty in Northern Ireland is equally obsessed with the job, which has saved countless lives and apprehended countless criminals.

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Chief Inspector Chris Hamill said: ‘These dogs are more than just smart dogs, they are police officers and so they are called PD for Police Dog, and like every officer we consider them essential to the role of policing in the north. Ireland.

“Every morning meeting reveals their results and they are exceptional. I could do with more dogs and I can only see this area of ​​policing growing.

During a typical week, PSNI police dogs are involved on average in:

  • 3 searches for missing persons
  • 9 searches for drugs, cash and firearms
  • 10 searches for explosives
  • 29 calls for assistance in recovering property stolen from burglaries and searching for offenders at a crime scene, and
  • 1 call for assistance for the containment of incidents with firearms.

DogsLive traveled to Maydown PSNI station in Co Derry to meet three of the new recruits, general purpose dogs, PD Nico, PD Kelly and PD Kiko who between them have 675 MILLION scent receptors in the nose. The average human only has 400.

The dog handlers of these young Belgian Malinois, all experienced and respected officers, have cleared some of the toughest recruitment hurdles within the PSNI to join the team of dog handlers and their work is highly regarded. constant and rigorous examination.

PD Kelly asks his master for instructions

But even their determination, instincts and skills cannot be compared to their dogs’ natural willingness to follow their muzzle.

Malinois, all imported directly from Belgium, have an average bite force of 195 pounds of pressure per square inch – or PSI. This unit of pressure indicates the force exerted on a square centimeter of space – and for the Malinois, it is almost twice that of an adult human, and places them in the top 18 in the world.

With so much power at their disposal, their handlers must ensure that their dogs are safe in public, trained to help the very vulnerable, but also have the ability to shift from their desire to follow and hold to do no harm. .

The PSNI Canine Section provides a round-the-clock response throughout Northern Ireland with two sergeants and 30 constables, all of whom handle and patrol with at least one police dog.

Police dogs are introduced to their handlers at around 18 months of age, a selection based on their natural abilities and traits which are developed and improved through continuous training and formal assessment, ensuring they are safe and effective in no any operating environment.

They are used for search, tracking and recovery work, tracking people and finding evidence of crime, including people escaping arrest, drugs, explosives, firearms and silver.

PD Kelly is focused
PD Kelly is focused

Chris Hamill, chief inspector of the PSNI’s operational support department, says his officers’ ability to work their dogs in some of the toughest situations is remarkable.

He said: “Dogs are a tremendous asset to the PSNI and they are far more capable than us in multiple tasks such as searching for people over great distances, tracking people, searching for drugs, detecting explosives. They are a huge asset that we simply couldn’t live without.

“The amount of drugs these dogs take on the streets daily is enormous. They really save people’s lives. 24/7 and the service they provide to their masters is amazing.

“I feel immense pride for these officers who work alone for 12 hours with their dogs. They have a massive attachment to their dogs and the responsibility is huge. These dogs are not tracked when not working – they work and live with the handlers and this requires very special handling, but it also creates deep bonds and trust.

“They are working dogs, their motivation is to work and only handlers are legally allowed to exercise them outside of work, so their dedication must be 100 per cent.”

PD Nico is a tough, driven dog with little interest in downtime.  Pictured here with his 36-year-old manager
PD Nico is a tough, driven dog with little interest in downtime. Pictured here with his 36-year-old manager

CI Hamill says the results speak for themselves.

He explained: “These dogs and their handlers are essential to policing in Northern Ireland and their results are outstanding.

“I’ve seen incidents where our dogs have found vulnerable people who, if the handler hadn’t been there and the dog hadn’t located them, that person wouldn’t be alive today – and this is not an unusual occurrence, in fact it still amazes me how often people’s lives are saved by these animals.

“The amount of work I see on a daily basis is exceptional, with the drugs seized running into the millions. With them off the streets, you can only imagine the lives protected through their work.

Chief Inspector Chris Hamill of the PSNI's Operational Support Department, says he leaves dog handling to the experts
Chief Inspector Chris Hamill of the PSNI’s Operational Support Department, says he leaves dog handling to the experts

“These dogs can follow a scent trail or identify a specific odor that humans cannot detect. Even with the development of technology, our police dogs remain one of the most valuable assets of modern policing and they perform a range of tasks that simply could not be performed otherwise.

The PSNI is currently running another three-step selection process which includes an exam, physical exam and class to assess if the candidate is fit to be a dog handler. Upon successful completion of these, the officer is assigned a dog to complete a 12-week course which has several test points.

And if they are successful, the training remains constant with evaluations every five weeks to ensure dogs and handlers are performing at the right level.

PD Kelly is a general purpose police dog and lives at home with his handler
PD Kelly is a general purpose police dog and lives at home with his handler

CI Hamill said: “The welfare of our dogs is of paramount importance, with regular checks by the vet to ensure they remain healthy and fit.

“And while their career may be shorter than that of their human equivalent, it is intense and the relationship with their handlers is unique.

“These dogs live with the officers to ensure they stay bonded and at the end of their working lives, most will stay with their owners as pets.

“Every dog ​​is different and each is a huge asset, so we are delighted to have six new additions to the canine team and we have another selection process underway.

“These dogs have a cost for the service, yes, but that is paid back over their six or seven year career many times over. I could do with more dogs in the service and I can only see this area of ​​policing growing.

PD Echo is an explosives-sniffing dog
PD Echo is an explosives-sniffing dog

PD Kelly: Small but Mighty

  • Weight: 22KG
  • Gender: Female
  • Age: 22 months
  • On duty: focused, motivated, strong, fast
  • Off Duty: Very friendly, likes belly scratches, devoted to her mistress. Shares the family home.

PD Kiko: A solid and strong boy

  • Weight: 29KG
  • Male gender
  • Age: 4 years old
  • On duty: focused, motivated, strong, fast
  • Off Duty: Friendly, loves the game, devoted to his handler and brother dog, explosive-smelling dog, PD Echo. Shares the family home.

PD Nico: an all-business hitter

  • Weight: 37KG
  • Male gender
  • Age: 20 months
  • On duty: focused, motivated, strong, fast
  • Off Duty: Recovers with work in mind, devoted to his handler. Does not share family home due to work focus.

The PSNI canine team includes general purpose dogs, passive sniffers, specialist sniffers, and casualty recovery specialists.

General Purpose Police Dogs: Multidisciplinary and trained to work in a variety of conditions. Their depth of skills includes; searching for missing persons, searching for suspects at crime scenes and recovering recently discarded items of an evidentiary nature. They also protect their handler and other officers in dangerous situations and even the presence of these police dogs can also be enough to discourage unwanted behavior.

Passive Scanning Drugs Dogs: They may look like they’re looking for walkies, but they’re still on a mission. These dogs are trained to sniff the air around a person in a non-discriminatory way and can detect illegal substances such as cannabis and amphetamines. They are often seen policing large crowds and at outdoor events.

Specialized Search Dogs: They are specialized search dogs that are trained to find specific scents. They are able to search and locate illegal drugs, firearms, cash, and various types of explosive substances. Their search capability is economical and efficient, covering larger, inaccessible areas faster than their human colleagues could. They tend to be Labradors, Springers, and Cockers.

Victim Recovery Dogs: Victim recovery or crime scene dogs are trained to search and detect human remains. They can be used to detect drowning victims, whether they are victims of a criminal act, accidental or otherwise. They are also trained to search crime scenes for blood particles or items containing blood.

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