I was one of the several callsigns including a Police Dog (K9) unit responding to a 999 call about a man with a knife acting erratically.
He’d been confronting people in the street with the knife, punching and kicking at cars. It was clearly a dangerous situation.
Most of us arrived at the same time but my callsign was first, I got out of the car and withdrew my firearm, pointed it at him and yelled for him to get down on the ground.
The K9 was also deployed and was making its run for the suspect, who had now dropped the knife. When the blade hit the ground I immediately went in to arrest him.
Unfortunately, as I leant down to arrest him the dog couldn’t tell the difference and attacked me.
It bit down hard into my arm as it had been trained to do so.
The handler immediately called it off and the dog released but the damage was done. I was bleeding from a significant bite on my arm. I was taken over to A&E and needed 10 stitches and a Tetanus.
It was entirely my own fault for having approached the dog before it had taken hold of the suspect and I learned a big lesson that day. I still like dogs though.
Sometimes friendly fire is part and parcel of the job. Fortunately, in the majority of the United Kingdom fatal friendly fire, blue on blue, accidental contact, whatever you wish to call it, is rare.
One of the most useful pieces of police kit we can possess is our dogs. Our faithful K9 units trained to within an inch of their lives. Police dogs can save lives and often can be the heroes in dangerous situations.
The sight and sound of a baying dog are often enough to bring even the most uncooperative of persons to heel. Nobody wants to get bit. Sometimes in the scrum officers can find themselves being bitten too.
Handlers live with their dogs. They own them outright and have them from pup to sometimes, but not always, death. They are incredibly brave and loyal creatures who are subject to the same abuses that officers face.
Police Dogs in Northern Ireland are at higher risk of harm than others due to the risk of being shot or bombed like any other police officer. The PSNI have used dogs to locate missing persons, vulnerable people, to apprehend offenders or violent persons safely.
They’re used to clear houses of explosives, money, cigarettes, firearms, bullets, basically, anything that smells can be trained to dogs. Many different breeds are used for various different things and some are much better than others in terms of temperament.
This is why you often see German Shepherds for crowd control and Cocker Spaniels for drugs and explosives. Often Labradors or German Herders are used for locating bodies and as passive drug dogs.
Last year, a police dog called Finn was stabbed by a chodey oxygen thief (who’ll be named the moment he turns 18 by everyone with an internet connection) suffering brutal injuries that almost cost him his life.
His handler, wept over the sight of his dog as Vets battled to save him. Officers around him would have felt the same pain. It’s not just a dog or even a piece of equipment but he’s one of us. One of those who had stepped up to make a difference.
Such was the vehement anger that Finn was afforded little to no protection in law because he was regarded as property. Fortunately, after a debate in parliament, the offences were made significantly tougher. Some would argue perhaps not by much but change did occur.
Given the significant amount of sacrifice these animals give, because they simply want to make their handler happy, through their bred loyalty and love of humans, it’s often very sad to see, time and again, stories of officer handlers not being allowed to retain the dogs after service.
When and where it’s possible the police dog should always retire with the handler if they’ve bonded. It can only lead to issues with behaviour and stress the dog out. By allowing police dogs to retire at home with their original handlers they can live out their days as a faithful companion, something they have surely earned.
Still, they have saved many a life and brought to justice people who flee from the police and for that Police Dogs deserve those extra protections, and maybe a bit of leeway when they accidentally bite a mate in excitement.