Police dog dogs are not infallible, but they are highly effective in detecting drugs and weapons.
But it’s the way they’re trained that is the issue, says Dr Simon Gomes, a lecturer in criminology at Sydney University.
“The way they are trained to do it is that they don’t want to go into an area where the drugs are and see what they see, and they’re not trained to go in to areas where the drug is and see if they’re dealing drugs or whether they’re hiding something,” he says.
“They don’t do that in the field.”
What can we do?
Dr Gomes says a number of things can be done to improve police dog behaviour.
First, a dog must be properly trained to detect drugs, so they are always on alert.
Secondly, it’s important to get the dog trained on a drug detection area, because a dog’s only going to get so far if they have to go there for a search.
“What we’re seeing now is that a number have become so proficient at this, that they’re able to sniff the drugs and the weapons from the drug area, without going into the area,” he explains.
“So it’s very important that we train our dogs to recognise drugs in the area, to recognise weapons in the same area, and to have the appropriate training so that when they’re patrolling that area they are also trained to spot weapons.”
In the meantime, the police are also encouraging people to contact them if they see dogs sniffing, but it’s not as simple as sending a text or posting on social media.
“You have to be prepared to talk to them,” Dr Goms says.
“[If you see] the dog sniffing drugs, or you see the dog on the ground with the drugs, then you can get on that.
And they’re also trained in the use of their dogs to not be aggressive.”
Dr Chua says police have made significant progress in recent years.
He says the police will continue to use the force’s dogs for drug detection and are working to get more officers to wear body armour, which can be worn under their uniforms.
Dr Chia says the force is also looking at the introduction of an electronic drug detection dog.