Dorset Police and Devon & Cornwall Police are once again leading the way in investing in cutting edge ways to tackle crime.
Hot off the heels of being the first police forces in the UK to set up a dedicated drone unit, the operations department has now announced that it has trained two digital storage detection police dogs.
Dorset Police and Devon & Cornwall Police have added to their ranks police dogs Tweed and Rob. Tweed a 19-month-old Springer Spaniel and Rob a 20-month-old black Labrador are the first police dogs in the UK, and the only dogs outside of the USA, to be trained to detect digital storage devices.
Chief Superintendent Jim Nye, Commander for the Alliance Operations Department, said: ‘This is an historic step for the alliance and policing in the UK. These dogs will give the police a new way to fight the threat of terrorism, paedophiles and fraudsters.
‘Tweed and Rob have been used by police at crime scenes and executions of warrants, not just within Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, but across the whole UK.
‘The dogs have been used to sniff out data devices such as mobile devices, USB sticks, SD cards, hard drives and computers.
‘Once again, we have shown that we are prepared to look at new technology and will always strive to get one step ahead to tackle criminality.’
In May 2015, Police Constable Graham Attwood, who is a police dog instructor for the team, began to research the ability to train such a dog. PC Attwood identified that the first dogs in the world to train in digital storage detection were trained at the Pioneering Connecticut State Police Dog unit in the USA.
Following his collaboration with Connecticut State Police and the FBI, a pilot scheme was started in December 2016.
PC Attwood, said: ‘Myself and members of the alliance dog school initially handled and trained Tweed and Rob mainly in our own time as we were committed to our usual daily duties of training the forces other operational police dogs.
‘The majority of the dogs we have in both forces either come from our puppy breeding scheme or are gift or rescue dogs but, as this was a unique challenge for us, we identified and purchased Tweed and Rob last December when they were around 15 months old and embarked on this journey with them.’
Recently retired Connecticut State Police Dog Instructor and co-founder of the American programme Mike Real along with Special Agent Jeffrey Calandra, who is the only digital detection dog handler in the FBI, were invited to Devon for a week in March 2016 to train with and assess Tweed and Rob.
This formed part of an independent review of the ability of the dogs to detect digital storage devices at the alliance police dog school in Middlemoor, Exeter.
Under the watchful eyes of the visiting officers from the United States, the dogs were put through their paces in a three-day assessment process of the dogs’ operational search abilities. Tweed and Rob passed with flying colours.
Mike Real said following the assessment: ‘Constable Attwood and the trainers at the alliance police dog school have done a masterful job of bringing this new disciple of police canine to the UK.
‘These dogs have already proved their ability and their worth in the US in locating evidence in numerous important cases. I have every confidence that Tweed and Rob will provide the UK law enforcement community an impressive new tool in the fight against child predators, fraud and terrorism.’
Special Agent Jeffrey Calandra of the FBI commented: ‘In today’s tech-driven world crime has no state or even country boundaries, so helping our law-enforcement partners around the world develop cutting edge detection capabilities is key to fighting crime and terror.’
PC Attwood, added: ‘Our digital dogs have already proven to be a success and have been used in over 50 warrants executed across the UK, including Hampshire, Essex, South Wales and North Yorkshire.
‘We have already seen some really fantastic results from these two dogs. Tweed on one warrant indicated that something may have been within what looked like a cola can. This was then inspected by a search officer and discovered that it was actually a money box which had a number of SD cards hidden within it.
‘Rob has also indicated a small device hidden carefully in a drawer which would have likely to have been missed by the human eye, which just goes to show that they are able to locate these items, which assists us greatly with our searches.’
Rob and Tweed are part of a trial and the forces will assess the success of these dogs and their new skills at the end of the 2017 with a view to rolling this out wider. The dogs live at home with their new full time police dog handlers, PC Martin King and PC Jill Curnow.