There are records of dogs being used with police officers as far back as 1900 and before, and the common breed which was favoured by various forces was the Airedale. The photograph opposite of the Liverpool City police officers with the Airedales was taken at Fairfield which possibly is where they were trained, if they were, for it is said that dogs used in this era patrolled with their handlers on night duty only more for companionship.
In the 1930’s a few forces started to experiment with other breeds and then Surrey Constabulary ‘kick started’ dog sections as we know them today. In the 1940’s and after the war from 1946 other forces started to form dog sections and Liverpool City Police dog section was formed in 1953. It was around this time that the Home Office created the Standing Advisory Committee on police dogs (HOSAC) where a training manual was produced for all forces which was the forerunner to the ACPO police dog training manual used today. The only breed of dog used at the time was the German Shepherd which was referred to as a general purpose dog used to track and search and detain criminals.
When the force training centre was built at Mather Avenue kennels were also built and the dog section housed.
In the early days of the 1950’s and 60’s dog handlers used to patrol on foot mainly in the city centre. They had two large vehicles used to drop off and pick up together with using public transport (buses) and being reimbursed the fare. One of the main functions was the bank patrols in Castle Street when four handlers and dogs would look after the cash movements, this duty went on for many years finishing in the early 1990’s.
The criteria for joining the dog section up until early 1970’s was that the handler had to be male and married and the dog introduced into a family atmosphere and kept at home in the kennel provided. There were various restrictions placed on the handlers at the time.
Once Merseyside Police was formed in 1974 many changes were implemented and previous practices ceased and we saw other breeds of dogs introduced such as Labradors and Springer Spaniels to combat the drugs and explosives issues.
In 1964 I joined the Dog Section based at Mather Avenue. From memory, the following names where on the section at the time.
Sgts. Bill Hillier, Ted Coulthard, Jack Heckford. Lennie Norman, Barney Holmes and Tommy Benson.
Cons. Paddy Murray, Ron Barnes, Don Randal, Jimmy Deveney, Charlie “Buck” Elliot, Ray Trafford, John Culliford, Tom Jackson, Eric Simpson, Dick Evans, Barney Flynn, Neil and Alan Gaddas, Peter Lowe, Harry Davies, Gordon Baxter, and George Webb. Then came Billy Marshall, Ronnie Stewart, Ronnie Greenwood, Drew Ferguson and Ken Hankey. My apologies to anyone I’ve left out, but it was over 50 years ago.
Dog Handlers were split into two sections and the main duties for the day shifts was to patrol Castle Street, due to the large amounts of cash movement. The late shift or E.P's (Evening Patrols) as they were called, was to cover throughout the City, be it mobile or on foot patrol, paying attention to areas that had suffered crime waves, all at the request of the Divisional Ch.Supt.
The dog handlers where given an hours grooming time at the end of the shift to feed and care for their dogs, which lived at home with the handlers and their families.
Training days were under the supervision of Tommy Benson and assistant trainer George Webb. The usual venue was a disused military base at Risley, Nr.Warrington, which was ideal for building searches, tracking and criminal work. Flasks and butties where the order of the day.
Charlie Elliot and his dog “Capel” represented the the L.C.P at Police Dog Trials and competitions throughout the country, and always gave a very good account of themselves.
If any former dog handlers from this era could come up with any more names of former colleagues, this would be most interesting.
Les Edwards 136M
This photograph shows how high a German Shepherd can jump. Just count the bricks from the ground to how high he is.
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