The Western Australia Police Canine Section was formed in 1993 with the initial intake of two police officers and two German shepherd dogs.
Training was conducted in Trentham, New Zealand, as this was the best available training facility. At the completion of training, the section had one general purpose dog and one narcotics detection dog.
Even in the early stages, it was found that the dogs were of great assistance to police on the streets and it quickly became apparent that an increase in staff was needed.
Since that time the section has steadily grown to 3 Sergeants and 4 training officers. There are also 22 general purpose dog teams including 3 in regional WA, 9 narcotic detector teams, 4 Passive Alert detection teams and 3 explosive detection dog teams.
The Canine section also conducts joint training and operations with other government agencies such as the Australian Customs Service, Australian Federal Police, and Department of the Attorney General, Special Air Services and the Australian Defence Force.
Next, we moved into the practical phase. The first step involves assessing their dog’s reaction to a civil picture [no bite equipment]. Let’s not understate what a risky venture this is for outside trainers. Civilian trainers visiting a professional organisation and assessing the dogs who are employed real time for their ability to engage a target without equipment. Risky, but essential.
Some dogs will falter during these exercises and things don’t always go as planned. However, we strongly believe that if your dog is not ready to engage a real target, then you best find out during training instead of on the job when the consequences could be dire. Thankfully the WAPOL canine team agreed and this phase was very well received. In fact, we could visually see the handlers putting the pieces together with regards to the theory behind what we do.
Targeting is an essential element of a well-trained, safe, and capable service dog. Poor targeting can end in excessive use of force, or injuries to dog’s and/or handlers. The bite suit phase covers this aspect. Instructing this phase is often fought over by the K9SA team as we all enjoy suit work [we’re weird like that]. Grant won this time around and ran the phase for WAPOL. The teams started with smiles a plenty but these quickly changed into grimaces as the dry drills, although essential, can be quite difficult.
"I didn't think I was going to pick up as much as I did from K9 Solutions Australia, great instructions coupled with proven experience." - Francois Becker, WAPOL dog handler.
Grant and I [much to Jase's annoyance....you’ll get your turn next course mate] rotated through the assessment of the dog's bite on the suit looking at intent levels and targeting. Then the handlers were given their first bites. As always there were varying levels of ability in absorbing and applying the dry drills the decoys had been taught, however, the commitment and effort was, what became the norm with the WAPOL canine team throughout the courses, unquestionable.