North Yorkshire Police, Cleveland Police and Durham Constabulary are to merge their police dog sections to create a single integrated service from summer 2016.
it is claimed that the move “will increase police coverage in rural areas, reduce overall costs by more than three million pounds over the next five years, and enable a substantial 24-hour dog unit to be to retained across the three Forces”.
Police dogs carry out a wide range of duties to support police operations, including tracking people, chasing down criminals, finding explosives, cash, weapons or drugs, “passive” drug identification, keeping public order and supporting firearms officers. Many of these tasks require highly specialised training, which means that, at the moment, each Force only has a limited number of police dogs with these skills.
Cleveland Police and Durham Constabulary embarked on a shared dog unit earlier this year and hope to build on this success through the further collaboration with North Yorkshire. Police dogs and their handlers from the three forces will all be trained in the same way and will adopt the same tactical approaches. This will give each force access to more police dogs per shift, as well as greater access to specialist police dogs to cover particular types of operations.
In North Yorkshire, dogs live with their handlers in different locations across the whole county.
To support them better, operational bases will be set up in Harrogate, York Fulford Road, Northallerton/Thirsk and East Coast/Ryedale.
These, together with bases in Durham and Cleveland, will mean that more dogs are deployable to the north of the county, improving the service to some of North Yorkshire’s most remote rural areas, as well as covering urban “hot spots” more effectively.
As part of the move, dog handlers in North Yorkshire will fall in line with their counterparts by working 12-hour shifts, a change from their current variable pattern with shorter shifts.
Mike Stubbs of North Yorkshire’s Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said it had “serious concerns about the move to 12 hour shifts”.
He said: “North Yorkshire is a very different environment to Cleveland or Durham – our dog handlers have to cover a massive area.
“Is it right they should be expected to do a blue light emergency run on demanding roads towards the end of a 12 hour shift, having already driven many miles across the county in the course of their shift?
“There are laws and limits for commercial drivers to protect against the effects of driver fatigue which the police enforce. It defies common sense that those principles are being ignored for drivers of police vehicles.”