The Cheshire and North Wales Police Alliance Dog Unit has welcomed Police Dog April following completion of a six-week rigorous training programme that has changed the way sexual offences are investigated.
After successfully qualifying as a sexual crime scene search dog, with the help of her handler PC Steve Gunn, PD April is now one of only three dogs in the UK to be trained to detect seminal fluid only, which will help put more sexual offenders behind bars.
The training is part of a highly successful forensic search dog project, pioneered by Derbyshire Constabulary and developed by its dog section and Crime Scene Investigators (CSI).
PD April, a 15-month-old Golden Labrador, can now pinpoint tiny amounts of seminal fluid without being distracted by other scents. Her nose is so sharp that she can detect as little as 0.016ml of semen, sometimes years after it has been deposited.
Within 36 hours of returning from their training, PC Gunn and PD April were put to the test operationally after being requested to assist CSI with the examination of a scene in Cheshire. It followed an allegation of a sexual assault on a young girl.
Chief Inspector Simon Newell – Head of Alliance Policing responsible for Armed Policing and Police Dogs for Cheshire and North Wales, said: “This is an early example of how this pairing of PD April and PC Steve Gunn will be a huge asset to the Alliance, helping both Cheshire and North Wales to prosecute sexual predators and safeguard victims.
“It shows how the skills of the dogs and their handlers play a vitally important role during sexual offence investigations, in scenes where traditional methods wouldn’t work.
“The introduction of this specialist search dog capability within the Alliance provides exciting opportunities to demonstrate how we can contribute towards tackling Force priorities”.
The Alliance Dog Unit, established in 2015, provides the capability to respond dynamically to incidents requiring police dog response across Cheshire and North Wales.
Derbyshire’s lead trainer, PC Dean Allen, said: “It’s fantastic to welcome April to the team. Their training as seminal fluid dogs has been extremely thorough to test and prove their ability so they can best assist CSI.
“In the last six weeks they’ve learnt to identify and search for that scent in numerous scenarios that we’ve set up for them: indoors, outdoors, in vehicles, on grass, tarmac, and materials such as bedding and clothing.
“The result is we can catch sexual offenders that we may not have been able to otherwise due to the very difficult nature of some sexual offence scenes.
“The dogs can indicate the presence of seminal fluid in places traditional kits can’t detect it and, once they’ve identified the scent, that piece of material or vegetation can be sent away and the extracted DNA profiled, leading to more prosecutions and offenders behind bars.”