Wednesday 20 February 2019

Ben And Police Dog Ash Successfully Defend Their Title At The Dorset, Devon And Cornwal Alliance Police Dog Assessments

The 2018 Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Alliance Police dog Assessments took place in Exeter from Monday 11th Feb 2019 to Wednesday 13th Feb 2019, to select the top 3 teams to represent the Alliance at the forthcoming Regional Police dog assessments being hosted by Avon and Somerset Police in April 2019.

I was very grateful to the organiser Sgt James Little from Cornwall for inviting me to Judge the assessments. As the Canine development officer it is my responsibility to acquire all of our pups and develop them with their puppy walkers. I also bred PD Ash and PD Comet and so to see them all performing was a huge thrill for me.

The following teams took part.

PC Steve Cruwys and PD Lenny are stationed at Exeter. Steve is an experienced handler and PD Lenny who was born on 23/4/15 was imported from Germany aged 15 weeks and was puppy walked by myself.

PC Lee Adamson and PD Grommitt are stationed in North Devon. Lee is an experienced handler and PD Grommit who was born on the 16/6/13 came through our puppy program and was puppy walked by Phil and Mel Rooks in Plymouth.

He was originally handled by retired Police dog Sergeant Alan Knight but Lee re-handled him several years ago when Alan retired.

PC Luke Barnard and PD Jacque are stationed in Ashburton. Luke is a first time handler and Jacque who was born on the 23/5/15 was donated to the force as a young puppy by Diane Oldfield in Cornwall.

Diane’s late husband former Devon and Cornwall Police officer Peter Oldfield died shortly after purchasing Jacque. Diane realised that Jacque needed an outlet for his energetic character and offered him to Devon and Cornwall Police.

She knew that her husband would have been happy because he was a good friend of the late and legendary Devon and Cornwall Police dog handler Jack Rule.  

Jacque was puppy walked by Heather Iles in Newquay.

PC Andy Ronayne and PD Nato are stationed at Plymouth. Andy is an experienced handler and Nato who was born on 14/7/15 was puppy walked by Susannah Coffin in North Devon.

PC Jason Gilbert and PD Comet are stationed at Camborne. Jason is an experienced handler and Comet who was bred by the force was born on the 20th October 2015 and was puppy walked by Dawn Harrison in Plymouth.

PC Ben Jobes and PD Ash are stationed at Camborne. Ben is a first time handler and Ash who was bred by the force was born on the 3rd of June 2013 and was puppy walked by Annie Miller in Cornwall.

Ben & PD Ash won the Force and Regional Police dog trials ( Assessments) last year and were highly placed at the National Police dog trials.

The Assessments

The Assessments are held annually and assess all of the required skills necessary to be a successful Police dog team. The top 3 teams go on to the Regional Police dog assessments and the top Regional Police dog teams then go on to the National Police dog assessments.

The teams are assessed on their ability to track and search for outstanding criminals, vulnerable missing persons or outstanding missing or stolen property. They are also assessed on their ability to deal with violent criminals, volatile crowds, agility and general control.

Day 1 ( Phase 1 ) Tracking, Stand Off And Article Searching

In Phase 1 the teams are assessed on their tracking and property searching skills. Each team is given an area where 90 minutes earlier the track layer (criminal) has walked a half mile trail with multiple changes of direction and has hidden 4 small items along the route.

The competitors are assessed on how accurately they follow the trail and how many hidden articles that they locate. Once they reach the end of the track they then have to deal with the criminal they have been tracking.

Here is Steve and Lenny hot on the offender’s trail.

Here is Luke and PD Jacque on the trail.

Here is Jacque having located an article hidden in the grass and signals to his handler he has found the item by lying down next to it. To get maximum marks the dog should indicate passively and not touch the article.
Having completed the track and located the criminal the handler attempts to detain the criminal who then runs away to evade capture. The handler must send his/her dog to detain the criminal. ( Here is Ben sending PD Ash after the criminal.
When the criminal sees the dog approaching he/she will suddenly surrender and stop running. The dog should not bite but should instead bark and maintain surveillance until joined by his/her handler.

This exercise is called the ‘Stand Off’ perfectly demonstrated here by PD Ash

Here is PD Grommitt having chased the criminal is keeping surveillance on the criminal preventing his escape and awaiting for his handler Lee to join him.

The handler will then interrogate the criminal while his/her dog maintains observations in a controlled position. If the criminal attempts to attack the handler or run the dog will immediately detain the criminal.

After securing and detained the criminal the team then have to search another area to locate 4 further articles or items of property which have been hidden.  

Here is Comet telling his handler he has found an article. The handler Jason then has to signal to the Judge that his dog has located an article and then the handler has to recover the article before continuing with the search.

Here is Andy just about to take possession of an article located by Nato.

Ben and PD Ash were the winners of Phase 1 and they hardly dropped any marks on the track, property search or the stand -off.

My favourite memory of the day was Jason and Comet. There is a time limit to complete the phase and the competitors are racing against the clock. Comet lost his way on the track and as a result had to work much harder than anyone else to recover the situation. Comet became tired.

Time was running out but Jason realising his dog was tired stopped and gave his dog a long rest before continuing which for me is the mark of a top dog handler always putting his/her dog first.

I was very impressed with the performance of the teams but I wasn’t surprised because this group of dogs are all achieving excellent operational tracking results.

Day 2 ( Phase 2) Searching For Criminals Or Vulnerable Missing Persons And Dealing With A Violent Attack On The Handler And Dog

Day 2 the teams had to demonstrate their ability to search and locate 2 outstanding criminals and also during the search to deal with an unexpected attack on the handler by an armed criminal.

The search area consisted of 2 large buildings, an open area with numerous caravans, a yard and a smaller building. Depending on the scenario the teams are either searching for Criminals or Vulnerable missing persons.

In this scenario the teams were searching for criminals. One criminal  was hidden and inaccessible and the other criminal was open and accessible.

Here is Grommit locating the accessible criminal by barking to alert his handler he has found someone.

Here is Lee making it very clear that if the criminal doesn’t do as he is told Grommit will be introduced into the equation.

Provided the criminal offers no violence or attempts to run away the dog will bark to alert his/her handler that he/she has found someone. Lenny here has located his man and he is making it quite clear behave or else.

I was unable to take any photo’s of the hidden criminal due to him being inside a closed cupboard in a room where there was only room for the dog handler and dog.

Here is Jason having just issued a challenge that anyone hiding in the area should give themselves up otherwise he will send his dog Comet in to search for them.

At the conclusion of the search each dog team had to deal with a very hostile attack which tested the boldness of each dog. All of the dogs responded with a strong bold attack and showed no nerves or avoidance whatsoever.

Here are Nato and Jacque dealing with their criminals.

The teams are assessed on their search technique, the ability the handler has to move and control their dog, thoroughness of the search, the strength of the dogs indications and safe indications if the criminal is passive.

Here is Ben searching the criminal with PD Ash.

The standard of the searches, the all-round level of control and the boldness of the dogs on the attack exercise was first class. The fact that only 11 marks separated the 6 competitors was evidence of that.

The overall winner of Phase 2 was Andy and PD Nato

Day 3 ( Phase 3) Criminal Work, Agility, Control Exercises

Phase 3 assesses the ability of the handler and dog to deal with use of force scenario’s, their general control and agility skills. The majority of the marks are in this phase. There are 5 Use of force exercises. 1. The Chase and attack. 2. The Stand-off. 3. The Emergency recall. 4. The weapon attack.
5. The Gun attack.

They also are assessed on their heelwork, agility and the send-away exercise.

The send-away is an exercise where the handler has to send his dog to a point at least 100 metres away and then has to re-direct the dog to another point left or right and then recall the dog.

Here is Luke setting Jacque up to send him to a point 100 metres away.

This is an exercise that takes a lot of time and effort spent training together to achieve. It was obvious to me that Luke has put in a lot of work and has done a fantastic job with Jacque.

I’m sure that if Jacques late owner Peter and his friend Dog handler Jack Rule were looking down they would have both been very proud of Luke and Jacque.

A Police dog must at all times be under the complete control of the handler and so a lot of work goes into control exercises such as heelwork, the stay positions the recall, agility, and releasing a detained criminal on command. 

All the handlers achieve good standards in training but demonstrating this in competition conditions with the public and peers looking on is a lot harder. Here are some more photos of the handlers competing in this phase.

Lee and PD Grommit demonstrating some very tidy heelwork.

PD Comet negotiating the hurdle.

Jason needed to tell PD Comet that this was the long jump and not the high jump.

Ben and a very attentive PD Ash receiving their instructions from the Steward James.

PD Ash not needing a second invitation to tackle the gun criminal.

On the straight chase exercise the dog should remain in a stationary position alongside the handler and should not give chase until told to do so. Andy has perfect control here over Nato but once Andy gave the order to detain the criminal Nato’s long legs made sure there was no escape.

PD Jacque making light work of negotiating the 6 foot scale but like all good handlers Luke is ready to give him a lift up if needed or to stop him falling back.

The weapon attack is a test of courage and Grommitt demonstrates here that he is certainly not lacking in that department.

I made the tests a little harder than normal by having the straight chase first and then immediately afterwards the Stand-off. The two exercises are identical in that both involve a fleeing criminal but on the stand-off the criminal suddenly stops running and gives himself up and the dog must not bite.

Here is PD Ash doing the straight chase and immediately afterwards successfully standing out on the stand-off.

3 out of the 6 teams successfully performed the stand-off exercise Comet, Ash and Grommit. 4 out of 6 teams successfully completed the emergency recall Comet, Ash, Grommit and Nato.

The emergency recall is probably the most important exercise of them all. The criminal runs and the dog is sent to chase and detain him. Once the dog gets 40 metres into the chase the handler must demonstrate he/she has the ability to terminate the chase by calling the dog back to him/her.

Here is Grommit successfully recalling from the chase.

This exercise could save the dog’s life if he/she is chasing a fleeing criminal who runs towards a busy main road.

A very successful Phase 3 rounded off an excellent 3 days of assessments.

We were very grateful to our Superintendent from Operations Nicky Leaper who is a big supporter of the dog unit for presenting the awards.

Overall Third place went to Andy and PD Nato and the award for winning Phase 2 the search trophy.

Overall Second place went to Lee Adamson and PD Grommit and also the award for winning the Phase 3  trophy.

It was also a proud moment for retired Police dog Sgt Alan Knight who was Grommit’s handler at the start of Grommit’s career. When Alan retired Grommit was re-handled by Lee who no doubt benefited from the excellent foundations that Alan had put in. Lee has since taken Grommit onto another level.

Annie Miller one of our experienced puppy walkers donated the runner up trophy and sent her apologies at not being able to attend the assessments.

The overall winner’s trophy went to Ben Jobes and PD Ash who are the current holders of the trophy.

They also won the Tracking trophy and the Phase 1 Trophy.

The 3 winners will now go on to represent the Alliance at the Regional Police dog assessments being held in Avon and Somerset in April. From left to right are Lee Adamson with Grommit, Ben Jobes with Ash and Andy Ronayne with Nato.

Here are the overall results.

To clarify the scores I would like to mention Steve and Lenny. They have only been together for just over 12 months. They performed well on phases 1 & 2 but on phase 3 Lenny’s hyper alertness and the excitement and nerves of the day no doubt got the better of him causing me to withdraw him.

I thought that Steve managed the situation extremely well and whilst it may have been a bit soon for Lenny to handle a Phase 3 under competition conditions I have no doubt Steve will work with Lenny to rectify that.

Regardless of the results I would like to thank all of the handlers for their hard work, professionalism and particularly for showing the character and resolve needed to take part in assessments with their dogs.

I would like to congratulate the handlers for the patience and compassion that they all showed towards their dogs. Congratulations should also go to the environmental trainers Phil Wilson and Tim Goodwin for the help I know they give to the handlers.

I wish the teams the best of luck in the Regional Assessments.


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