The dogs section is a specialist area of policing, which provides a valuable service – albeit at a substantial cost.
A dogs section is made up of handlers, who may handle one or more dogs, and general purpose and specialist police dogs.
Specialist police dogs have training to develop skills in a particular area. For example: the identification of explosives, drugs, cash or weapons; victim recovery; passive drugs detection, or firearms operational support.
Individual dog sections differ in size. Not all dogs are on shift at any one time so all experience demand pressures – particularly at peak times or when simultaneous requirements span a wide area.
Police services do not own police dogs across every area of specialist skill. When specialist dogs are needed for a particular operation, they must be requested and paid for by Mutual Aid from another force.
Given the pressures on police budgets, the Evolve Programme seeks to find an affordable way to continue/enhance services provided by dogs sections. It seeks to maximize the return on investment in this specialist area.
Cleveland Police and Durham Constabulary are already collaborating on dogs section provision.
However, under the Evolve Programme, it is proposed to build on this further,. This would extend the service to a three-way Integrated Dogs Support Unit, which would include North Yorkshire.
The key features and benefits are:
- A single command structure to provide clarity of leadership, management responsibility and enhanced oversight
- A standardized training and tactical approach
- Consolidation of the existing operational centres at Wynyard and Spennymoor, with additional centres at York, Harrogate, East Coast and Northallerton/Thirsk, to give breadth of coverage. (Operational centres are where dogs can be transferred to police vehicles and put in kennels for short periods, and where handlers can book-in for duty).
- Access to a larger combined pool of trained police dogs (double the current capacity.) This will ensure there are more police dogs available for duty at any one time than previously
- Access to the full range of specialist police dog skills within a single unit
- Ability to match deployment to demand more effectively
- Potential for greater pro-activity within the service
As with all Evolve Programme projects, a key driver behind the initiative is to reduce costs as well as improving service.
If the proposed Integrated Dogs Support Unit approach is adopted, it is anticipated that cost savings will be in excess of £600k per annum. That works out as £179k for Cleveland, £259k for Durham and £172k for North Yorkshire – or £3m over the next five years.
This reduction would be achieved through realignment of the current resources, and by realizing the savings resulting from the disestablishment of current vacancies, and “natural reductions” such as scheduled retirements.
There will be no redundancies as a result and it is not anticipated that extra police dog retirements will be required.
In making their decision, Commissioners and Chief Constables are asked to note:
- The full business case based on analysis of previous demand – although it is recognised that there would be a value in re-analysis a year after implementation of the new servic
- Stakeholders in the key enabling services (HR, Fleet, Estates, Information Technology and Finance) across all three Forces have provided advice on the viability of the Integrated Dogs Section model, and have contributed to the business case
- The business case model has the support of dogs section expert practitioners. In line with the Evolve Programme’s standard working practice, expert practitioners from the dogs sections across the three Forces came together to design a service specification, setting out the key elements to be provided by a single unit. This service specification was approved in May 2015, and the project progressed to develop a series of operating models that would meet the necessary requirements. These models were considered in September 2015, and a virtual hub-and-spoke Integrated Dog Support Unit selected as the preferred option to be developed as a full business case for the consideration of Commissioners and Chief Constables.