After some of the comments from the last post it-is clear that out there, in the place known as the real world, where response teams respond and the rest of the world watches whist it catches its breath, there is a wide difference in the availability of GP dog support. There are many reasons for this, or some of these below at least.
The biggest problem for dog handlers is that most of them want to do the job of support districts as their number one aim and the demand for their particular brand of expertise has become fractured and seems to be constantly changing.
Most want to support district response with a GP capacity of support. That is the reason why they joined the section in the first place.
There are numerous reasons that have caused problems with GP availability, some of them as follows.
1. Response are so short that often dog handlers are treated by some comms as just another resource to show attending a job, sometimes where a double crewed unit should really be sent. Any specialist support role is not considered. Comms have targets too.
2. Because response are so short the chance of specialist help is too often delayed and we get the all to often no real scope. This is because time exposure is our enemy. Not because it is too wet, too windy, too long after the event, too dark, too far to travel………the list is endless.
3. Most of the senior management who manage the dog handlers see their importance in other areas where they have ‘targetted’ as many resources as possible. IE you will get dog handlers sitting around allocated to an ANPR operation in stead of covering their allocated district and responding when necessary. The trust in handlers to self deploy to areas of known activity or crime hot-spots does not exist within the climate of micro-management and the perceived accountability of the NIM and decision making processes. Some Force’s handlers feel they are under pressure to generate all sorts of stuff by way of targets, gathering evidence for PDR’s and remove themselves from what they want to do.
4. The slow but continual erosion of the understanding of our core role, namely supporting the districts with dedicated GP capability. There are extras in the form of drugs, explo and the like but the main role is GP support response.
5. Shift changes that take the regular dog handler further away from his district group (yes they are a group) removes probably the closest and most beneficial tie we handlers can have with our usual allocated district.
6. We are seen as a Force resource, which I do not fall out with in general, but we need to have a close working relationship with our base district or else is just doesn’t work as well. I have had a warm welcome, calls on my mobile or P to P with a job that has not come over the radio, morning tea & cakes, lively banter as well as some excellent results because the district response know who I am.
7. Shift pattern changes that take us away from working with any one team/group and the resultant loss of that knowledge and relationship.
8. Lose a handler for a drugs or explo search and you lose the GP capability as well.
I dare say that every response has those handlers that they prefer for their own reasons but generally the working relationship is excellent and this is something that senior management cannot comprehend because they don’t see the benefits for each side. It ticks no boxes and cannot be measured so in their eyes it is simply not important. We have moved on from answering call, training our dogs and being free for lates and nights when most of the demand occurs for our GP stuff.
Sadly my Police dog experience has developed within a framework where your support for district was paramount. If my sergeant (yes we have those too on the section) spoke to district skippers and they could not tell them who their dog handlers were I would be in deep cack. This relationship with district formed the backbone of our working relationship and was the one thing we depended on. Without this we, as handlers, could not advise the troops on matters of scent, time exposure, contamination and factors that effected the service we offered. We also benefited from the use of those who wanted to get onto the dogs at some stage in their careers. As part of their experience of finding out about what we did so they could get a better picture of our role they offered themselves (some might say stupidly) as willing volunteers into the fray. Some even did this on more one occasion. This is not brown nosing or earning some extra points but an effort to see if they could do the job and find out exactly what is involved with the role. This is common sense. Enough about selection as I have already done that.
I suspect that all to soon if a district wants to get a dog handler for a job they will have to get an Inspector’s authority as the cost will be reclaimed from the budget of the district concerned. For the sake of the god’o'dogs I hope this never happens and gadget finds out.
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