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BTP History Week - Police Dogs

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History Week dogs

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This week it’s BTP HistoryWeek
Every day, we’re going to be travelling back in time to reminisce about more than 100 years of policing the railways and the amazing people who have been part of it.
Did you know we’re one of the oldest police forces in the world? And were one of the first to recruit women police officers, use police dogs and use technology to help solve crime?
No? Well strap yourself in and get ready for a trip down memory lane  

First up are our furry friends...
It’s fair to say that police dogs have come a long way since 1888. With Jack the Ripper stalking the East End of London, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Charles Warren decided to test out two bloodhounds, hoping they could help catch the infamous killer. It didn’t go to plan: one bit the commissioner before both dogs ran off, sparking a police search to find them.
Despite inauspicious beginnings, the dog section plays an integral part in modern policing – and it’s a story we’re proud to have played a pioneering role in. When the first four dogs – Airedale Terriers Jim, Vic, Mick and Ben – began patrolling Hull Docks in 1908, a legacy was born as BTP became the first force in the country to officially use dogs. And just like their human colleagues, they were even issued with coats to wear during bad weather!

Over the years, dedicated training centres were created – first at Hedon Hall, near Hull, then Elstree in Hertfordshire, followed by our former training school in Tadworth, before settling at Keston in Kent – and the dog section grew. Today, we’ve got 41 canine cops, making BTP’s dog section one of the largest in Britain.

From those first tentative paws on patrol more than 100 years ago, dogs have now become a common sight at British stations. Whether ridding the streets of drugs (a doff of the helmet to PC ‘Spud’ Murphy who, in 1973, first trained his general-purpose dog to detect cannabis) or tackling terrorism, their unique abilities have become increasingly valued in today’s climate, and they are often used in the most harrowing of circumstances.

Displaying unwavering focus and stamina, two of our dogs worked a 33-hour tour of duty recovering bodies from the wreckage of the Lockerbie plane bombing in 1989.
Since the first explosive detection dog left the kennels to join us in the 1980s, they have gone on to deal with incidents throughout the terrorist campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s, and were among the first on the scene after the 7/7 London terror attacks and the recent bombing in Manchester searching the sites of utter devastation for any other explosives and secondary devices.
Working environments don’t get much tougher than that – whether you’ve got two feet or four.

So what does the future hold? Policing has undergone enormous change over the past century, from whistle to wailing sirens, truncheon to Taser. Yet police dogs have remained a constant throughout that evolution and are as valued today as they were when Jim, Vic, Mick and Ben blazed a trail all those years ago.
So you can bet your bottom collar they’ll be around for a few more years yet.

Follow our police dog on Twitter @BTPDogs

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