Auxiliary police get first canine partners

The dogs in Certis Singapore's first K-9 unit receiving their proficiency badges at a presentation ceremony yesterday. They will soon be deployed for security sweeps at large-scale entertainment events.
The dogs in Certis Singapore's first K-9 unit receiving their proficiency badges at a presentation ceremony yesterday. They will soon be deployed for security sweeps at large-scale entertainment events.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Crimebuster with her nose to the ground: A sniffer dog named Naomi checking for hidden explosive materials during a demonstration at Certis' headquarters yesterday. The two-year-old labrador retriever is a member of the security firm's new K-9 unit,
Crimebuster with her nose to the ground: A sniffer dog named Naomi checking for hidden explosive materials during a demonstration at Certis' headquarters yesterday. The two-year-old labrador retriever is a member of the security firm's new K-9 unit, which will be deployed at large-scale events to conduct security checks. Five dogs have been certified by the Singapore Police Force and will start work this month.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Dressed neatly in a uniform embossed with his name, Bonzo stands at attention as his boss presents him with his badge, signifying the start of his auxiliary police career.

But when it comes to taking the auxiliary police officer pledge, his partner has to recite it on his behalf as Bonzo is a different breed of auxiliary policeman altogether - he is a sniffer dog.

Bonzo, Naomi, Peppe, Aspa and Turbo are the pioneering batch of security firm Certis' new K-9 unit.

The five furry "officers" - three English springer spaniels and two labrador retrievers - are certified by the Singapore Police Force.

They received their proficiency badges from Certis Singapore chief executive Ronald Poon in a presentation ceremony yesterday at the firm's headquarters in Paya Lebar.

The firm will soon deploy the dogs at large-scale entertainment events like concerts to conduct security sweeps, and there are plans for the dogs to work in the aviation and hospitality sectors.

Assistant Superintendent (Auxiliary Police Force) Matthew Ng, the commanding officer of the K-9 unit, said the new unit, formed a year ago, can help auxiliary police carry out security sweeps faster and more accurately.

For example, while their human counterparts may take about 15 minutes to search a vehicle, the dogs can complete the job in just five to seven minutes with their keen sense of smell, he said.

The dogs are trained by Singapore Police Force-certified trainers to recognise the scents of explosives during a three-to four-month-long training programme, he added. The dogs spend a few months bonding with their handlers before they are trained.

Dogs are also likely to be more accurate than machines in detecting explosives, said ASP (APF) Ng.

"For explosive trace devices, the accuracy will range from 70 to 85 per cent, but a dog can consistently have an accuracy rate of 90 per cent," he said. "Dogs are also very mobile and very fast. They can go where the cargo is," he said.

The five dogs were sourced from breeders in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and are between the ages of one and two.

 
 

They will retire after about eight years in service.

As the dogs will have to be deployed in public areas, all sniffer dogs are very friendly and do not bite, said ASP APF (Ng), adding that they welcome the public to take photos with the dogs.

There are plans to expand the unit, and the next batch of dogs will undergo the certification test next year, he said.

"We are also actively exploring with the police the possibility of deploying security dogs, or even narcotics dogs,'' said ASP (APF) Ng.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2019, with the headline 'Auxiliary police get first canine partners'. Print Edition | Subscribe