The dog section

We were the first force in the country to use dogs. Our dog section is over 100 years old, and we have 62 dogs assisting our officers today.

The dog section

Police officers have been accompanied by dogs since the 15th century, when parish constables took their pet dogs on night patrols.
 
The first experiment with ‘official’ police dogs came in 1888 when Metropolitan Police Commissioner Charles Warren tested out two bloodhounds, hoping they could help catch the infamous Victorian murderer Jack the Ripper. The experiment failed; one bit the commissioner and then both dogs ran off, requiring a police search to find them.
 
In November 1907, having heard about the successful implementation of police dogs in Belgium, Superintendent J Dobie of the North Eastern Railway Police instructed an Inspector Dobson to set up a similar scheme. Dobson decided to use Airedale Terriers as he considered them strong, hardy and with a keen sense of smell. 
 
The first British police dog section

The first four dogs, Jim, Vic, Mick and Ben, began patrolling Hull Docks in 1908. The scheme was extended to the Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Tyne docks, all policed by the North Eastern Railway PoEarly yearslice.

The dogs were trained at Hull where kennels had been erected and were issued with a coat to wear in bad weather. They were only used at night and were trained to protect the police uniform, indeed to attack anyone who was not wearing a uniform. The dogs would even growl at their own handlers when they were not in uniform.
 
After the Great War the dog section was reviewed and by 1923 the Hull trainers decided to use the Alsatians, the favoured dog of the German Army. Soon after many railway and dock police forces amalgamated to become the British Transport Commission Police. This new force, the second largest in the country, had 24 police dogs.

A new police dog training centre was established at Inmans Farm, Hedon Hall near Hull. The officer in charge of this new school was Inspector John Morrell and under his stewardship the dog section was increased to 75.
 
Following Inspector Morrell’s death in 1960, Inspector Herbert Shelton was recruited from another force to fulfil his role.
 
Early drugs dogs

Inspector Shelton oversaw the construction of a new police dog training centre at Elstree in Hertfordshire. A greater number of dogs could be trained and dog handler posts were established at many stations and docks around the country, including Southampton Docks which formed its dog section in 1962.

Southampton dogs 1964

It was in Southampton in 1973 where PC ‘Spud’ Murphy trained his general-purpose dog to detect cannabis. The superintendent was so impressed he obtained a dog, Cap, specifically for this purpose. 
 
Between 1973 and 1974 arrests by dog handlers rose from 738 to 908 but this did not impress the new Chief Constable Eric Haslam who joined the Force from the Kent County Constabulary. He reduced the dog section to 22 officers.
 
On 4 July 1974 PC Don Gordon and his police dog, Jim, caught a man stealing cable at Grand Terminus Junction, Glasgow. The man slashed the officer around the face and stabbed Jim before escaping. Despite their injuries the team chased and again tackled the man but received further injuries. The officer required 38 stitches but the man was caught and officer and dog received the Whitbread Shield for their brave conduct, the first and only time a dog handler has won this award.

Decline

As a result of budget cuts, the number of operational dogs was reduced and the Dog Training School at Elstree was closed at the end of 1975: the number of dogs was reduced from 52 to 22.

Page two: 1980s to today