Policing - it's far from a dog's life
Wiltshire Police Specialist Capabilities teams are now centred in providing a service just to Wiltshire, rather than working in a 'tri-force' partnership covering Avon, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.
This means that our people will be dealing with the issues that arise in the county of Wiltshire.
In order to get a better feeling of what these changes mean I spent a shift last week with one of our dog handlers and her two dogs - German shepherd, Chiko, and spaniel, Ted.
We left Devizes at 2pm and set off towards South East Wiltshire CPT. The dog handlers carry a work load, just like those in community policing generally - and visiting vulnerable people forms part of everyday activity for our officers. So we visited a flat in Tidworth where a vulnerable person with learning difficulties has recently been rehoused.
During the afternoon as schools came out, we visited a couple of parks, to meet the park users and check on the behaviour - having Ted the spaniel with use helps. He is such a character and whilst a trained drugs dog is very approachable and friendly.
We are a rural county - even the administrative area of Swindon is 70% rural.
So the officer also kept an ear open for talk on the radio of illegal activity such as lamping and hare coursing on the Plain.
Reports were coming in of a four wheel drive vehicle, two males and a number of dogs on the lane and tracks on the Plain. We met a gamekeeper at a crossroads where we had stopped to get a vantage view of the Plain. He was not happy - his birds, stocked for the season's shooting, were at risk. It was good to hear of the social media group of farmers, gamekeepers and county police who keep in contact over rural crime, but, I wondered, are they sure they know every member and the intelligence is not being given to those wishing to exploit the countryside?
Around 5pm the officer, monitoring what was going on across the county, heard of someone decamping and running off after a 'stop' on the M4. A 'blue light' run from the south of the county to the M4 ensued. I asked whether the dogs get excited by the noise of the siren - a sort of Pavlovian response. Yes - but dealt with in training.
Arriving on the hard shoulder of the M4, already the officers who made the stop had been joined by others. As the driver had decamped and disappeared down the bank of the motorway into the wooded area, Chicko was deployed and quickly picked up a scent and was away. Within a few minutes one of our drones appeared in the sky above too.
Our drones are operated by the Special Constabulary, and offer support in searches such as this regularly. Officers were busy on the side of the motorway, looking after the two passengers in the car. Liaising with Highways England, to put in lane closures, arranging transport back to Swindon custody for those detained, and arranging for the car to be recovered to secure premises; all this whilst having to be aware of walking alongside a motorway at rush hour.
Unfortunately there was no trace of the driver - the dog lost the trail and nothing was seen by the drone.
Chiko got a good run. We resumed patrolling the county, taking a break at the new 'touchdown' point, Corner House in Marlborough.
As we arrived back at Devizes HQ at around 10pm I couldn't help reflect on how occupied the officer had been, how far we had travelled, and how limited our resources in Wiltshire are to deal with our rural county.
Published on Wednesday 16 October 2019.