Getting towed along for the ride is one of many things police dog handler Constable Alan Duncan, with German shepherd Brook, enjoys about his job. Photo by Samantha McPherson.
Spending hours tracking people who are trying to evade police
forms part of a physically demanding yet rewarding role for
police dog handler Constable Alan Duncan.
Const Duncan, who has been in the police for nine years,
graduated with German shepherd Brook from the Police Dog
Training Centre in Trentham in July last year.
''We think they [police dogs] are one of the most vital parts
of the police.
"Their tracking capability is probably our biggest asset. We
find people that we couldn't otherwise have caught.
"It's all on them. We just get towed along for the ride and
look good if the dog has had a successful track,'' he said.
Based at the South Dunedin Police Station, Const Duncan is
one of three general purpose handlers.
Brook, who is also trained for Armed Offenders Squad duties,
is Const Duncan's first operational dog.
''She's quite a cool dog. She's got heaps of character and
keeps me on my toes. She is pretty clever at what she does.
"Brook is so accurate and honest. The dog can't lie, it goes
where the scent is. If they can't smell it they won't go. We
have to go with their nose,'' he said.
While the pair have had many successful and unsuccessful
tracks, Const Duncan has ''never met anyone quicker'' than
''The dog acts as a deterrent, as well. A lot of the time,
once people know the dog is coming, they will give up. I
haven't met anyone who is quicker than Brook yet.
"Operationally, it's hard for them when they don't catch
someone ... they don't know why they haven't had a successful
track,'' he said.
Const Duncan said it was the responsibility of each handler
to maintain their dog to a certain standard. Each week,
handlers and their dogs have training sessions and they are
re-certified every year.
''Our final course involves testing on tracking, criminal
work (biting), preventing people from escaping and
apprehending a fleeing offender, searching exercises and
"Most days we will do something with the dog to try and
maintain their level and to improve them. It's a constant
job. My days off are her days off.
"If we are at home, she will be in her kennel. It's like a
battery charger for them. When we do go to work she is
excited to try and catch someone or to do some training.
"She is always interested and gets her fun at work,'' he
At the training centre in Trentham, dogs are put through
three courses, an initial, intermediate and a final.
At any stage they can be pulled out of the course and the
reason determines their future.
Some are re-homed as pets and some may go to the army,
corrections or aviation security, where they are trained as
general purpose, drug or explosive detection dogs.
Const Duncan said he had one of the ''best jobs'' in the
''When a job comes in that they need a dog for, they wait for
us to get there so we can do what we need to first.
"We get to have all the fun at the start. Everyone picks up
the ball after that.
"Different departments within the police have their own role
to play. That's what interested me,'' he said.
Working near Fox Glacier as part of a team to assist with a
homicide inquiry is the furthest the pair have travelled.