The event – supported by the National K9 Memorial which campaigns for recognition of the work of brave police dogs – is one of the first of its kind in the UK, but is planned to be an annual occasion and potentially rolled out to other forces.
Retired police dogs Aden, Baz, Diesel, Hugh, Ollie, Paddy, Quanto, Solo and Billy were presented with National K9 Memorial medals for their services to policing, by Deputy Chief Constable Sarah Crew.
Also recognised were police dogs who could not attend for health reasons or who have sadly passed away since their police careers.
Each dog has completed a full service to the organisation and communities of Avon and Somerset in the fields of general purpose patrol, firearms support and specialist searches in explosives and drug detection.
Courageous and caring actions of the police dogs were recognised, from life-saving search and finds of missing and vulnerable people to policing events of national importance such as the 2012 Olympics and the detection of major hauls of drugs, cash and firearms to the apprehension of machete or gun-wielding criminals.
The PCC (Police and Crime Commissioner) Shield was presented to serving PD Bandit and his handler PC Lee Fairman, for their outstanding teamwork in 2019 which included numerous finds of money, drugs and firearms.
Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Police dogs are a valuable asset in vital operations that take dangerous drugs off our streets or help find missing people. They are also an extension of the handlers who work with and care for them daily and it is wonderful to see the outstanding teamwork of PD Bandit and his handler, PC Fairman, recognised with this award.”
A moving tribute was also paid to Linda Paton, wife of serving Officer PC Adam Paton, who lost her battle with cancer last year. Linda, who like many family members become part of the wider support police team when they live with and care for a police dog, provided unrelenting support and encouragement to PC Paton and the police dogs he handled throughout his career.
BBC TV presenter Alex Lovell presented the Linda Paton Memorial Plate, which will be an annual award in recognition of the most improved team, to PD Karma and his handler PC Chris Hardaway who have demonstrated an outstanding working partnership over the past year.
A special retirement award was also made to former Tactical Support Chief Inspector Shane Hawkings for recognition of outstanding performance and dedication to duty, on behalf of the Deputy Chief Constable and the colleagues he recruited, trained, encouraged and developed.
The ceremony was attended not only by police dog instructors and their handlers but some of the families who live with or have adopted retired police dogs. Also in attendance were the kennel staff and vets who look after the police dogs’ welfare during their careers, the puppy walkers who support the dogs in their early years and the RSPCA West Hatch and Buddy’s Rural Animal Rescue charity, both of whom provide rescue dogs for service.
Chief Dog Instructor for Avon and Somerset Police Sergeant Denis McCoy said: “It is fantastic to be working with the National K9 Memorial to recognise the outstanding contribution our police dogs make in protecting and serving the communities of Avon and Somerset.
“Our dogs generally start their police service at 12 to 18 months of age, retiring at 8 to 10 years, depending on fitness and breed. During their careers, they will carry out a range of duties from locating vulnerable and missing people and detaining violent offenders to dealing with large scale disorder and detection of explosives and drugs. They truly are incredible.”
Tactical Support Inspector Will Barlow added: “Our police dogs carry out their duties with unstinting bravery, skill and honesty and can often reach across boundaries that human beings can’t. They provide a reassuring presence to their handlers in the often dangerous pursuit of their duties and have saved the lives of many vulnerable citizens.
“They are just as much a part of the police family as the rest of us and we are proud to be one of the first forces to formally recognise their careers and achievements in this way.”
See photos from our ceremony and follow our Police Dog team: www.twitter.com/aspolicedogs