We all remember this report from Sky News:
Sniffer Dogs ‘Can Hinder Police Work’
Police sniffer dogs used to find missing people and dead bodies “urgently” need better training and monitoring, according to an official report.
Sniffer dog Eddie was relieved of his police duties after complicating investigations
The Government’s National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) said specialist victim recovery dogs are not trained to approved standards, with no way of gauging their competence.
The NPIA reviewed the use of the specialist sniffer dogs two years ago, but its report has only now surfaced following a request by Sky News.
“There is no consistency in what the dogs can do and how it is done,” the report states.
“Furthermore, there is no national standard for accrediting dogs and handlers or record keeping of the success rate they achieve.”
The report added the dogs, which are trained to detect the smell of dead bodies, have “the potential to cause complications in an inquiry”.
“There is an urgent need to have national policy on their training, accreditation and deployment,” it concluded.
The review uses a kidnap investigation to highlight how dogs have tied up valuable police time.
The animals detected human remains in old furniture that had been bought from houses where the owner had died.
The use of victim recovery, or cadaver dogs, has proved to be controversial in a number of high-profile cases in recent years.
A South Yorkshire Police spaniel called Eddie was said to have sniffed out the “scent of death” at the Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey and the apartment from which Madeleine McCann disappeared in Portugal.
But in both cases nothing more was found and South Yorkshire Police say Eddie is no longer working with them.
Sniffer dogs hindered the police probe into Shannon Matthew’s disappearance
Victim recovery dogs from four different police forces were used during searches for kidnapped schoolgirl Shannon Matthews in Dewsbury in West Yorkshire in 2008.The dogs found evidence of dead bodies, but officers later discovered the corpses were nothing to do with her disappearance.
“The properties searched contained a high level of second-hand furniture bought from dwellings where someone had died,” according to the NPIA report.
“This resulted in numerous indications that required further investigation to confirm whether they were connected to the investigation, or to previous owners of the furniture.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers told Sky News it was consulting individual police forces and hoped to have national training standards for the dogs later this year.
And now is a timely reminder of the comments posted on this blog
John Best says:
25/03/2011 at 15:13
Interesting to see the authors of this report are from the NPIA. This is the organisation who supported a retired dog handler whilst he searched in Portugal and Jersey, against the wishes of the ACPO police dog working group who could see the Police being bought into disrepute. Some of his outrageous comments around finding “the smell of death” are believed by police officers around the country. Victim recovery handlers are often asked, “has your dog found the smell of death”
Victim recovery dogs and handlers are licensed to set ctiteria, something the NPIA sponsored dog never was. This criteria is about to be updated in the new Training and Care manual. The ACPO police dog working group and the NPIA were in a constant battle with regards the retired handler. Not often budget cuts can be applauded, on this occasion they can, the NPIA is about to be scrapped!!
25/03/2011 at 16:05
Thank you John for posting this comment. As the Police Dog School Manager you are in a position to know the latest information on this and as usual it looks as though Sky have not reported all there is to know in this.
26/03/2011 at 17:26
I have received the following from a serving officer in relation to the Sky News report, which explains a great deal including the fact that the dogs in question were not police dogs at all but private security dogs with allegedly dubious credibility:
It was again Sky who reported in Jersey that it was Police Dogs involved in the search, watching from here l was shouting at the TV that it was not. Sky just assumed or thought it would be more newsworthy l presume…or did the private security handler not give them the correct info or any info at all.
l have entered a reply on Sky News’s discussion board as l was a tadge annoyed by the so called experts at The NPIA, which is to be closed under the cuts, and Sky News typical ‘lets cause a row’ type of reporting.
Firstly lets remember that the report that is mentioned by Sky is in fact two years old so things have changed and are still changing in Victim Recovery dogs training.
The main discussion points are around Portugal and Jersey and the employment of a private company earning reputedly 1k a day plus expenses…l think l would blow my own trumpet if l could rake in that sort of money.
These two particular dogs were owned and worked by ex Police Officer Martin Grime, were not licensed in any way, and on the many occasions he was offered to attend a Regional School anywhere in the country to be assessed he declined.
I know of many more stories regarding this individual and his ‘trail of death’ dogs and he is not a favourite of mine, he has set us back in the forensic expert world due to the two main stories.
As to whether or not the dogs did indicate something l do not think we will ever know….if only they could speak eh. If they did indicate something it could have been from anything, in the apartment in Portugal someone else could have injured themselves and left traces of blood…unfortunately the samples taken from the ‘find’ were insufficient to give any DNA readings….
The Jersey scene could have been exactly the same but l think someone needed to engage brain before speaking on this one…and l have yet to see anything conclusive on what he allegedly found.
Re a cover up…Why, if there was enough evidence to prosecute then why didn’t they…?
Finally from this ramble….. Regarding training we have an initial six week course and have for the last five years, with the usual one day a month and two one week refreshers annually. The new ACPO Manual draft is out and it has a comprehensive national policy on the training and handling of Victim Recovery dogs with I believe 10 or 11 disciplines that the teams have to pass competency tests on.
Don’t forget there have been many successes with these dogs and no doubt some failures.. some of which we do not know about. But we have found 11 bodies since we have been going and two murder weapons discarded some distance from the scenes…and some lucky ones amongst us have been to Ascension Island on a job. We regularly attend POLSA conferences and give talks and demos..