Dogs are often referred to as man’s best friend but for officers who spend all day everyday with their furry four-legged companion, it’s more than just a friendship, it’s a bond like no other.
And for one officer, being able to work and play with these crime-fighting canines really is a dream come true.
PC Darren Sewell has been a cop for nearly 21 years and has spent the last 16 years as a dog handler, but his passion for policing and pooches began many years before.
“I’ve loved dogs since I was a kid and being a police dog handler was always my dream job. Even after all these years there’s nothing else I’d rather do,” he said.
Darren is one of a handful of officers working in the role as part of Leicestershire Police’s dog unit.
In the unit there are six breeds of working police dogs – German and Dutch Shepherds and a Belgian Malinois, who all work as general purpose dogs - tracking offenders, locating missing people and protecting officers in potential dangerous situations.
As well as a Labrador, Cocker and Springer Spaniels, known as sniffer dogs, who can find illegal drugs, quantities of cash, explosives, bodily fluids and even digital media storage devices, such as SIM cards and hard drives.
The job brings a whole new meaning to taking work home as the dogs also live with their handler who are responsible for their care and continual training fulltime.
In Darren’s many years in the role he’s been paired with four dogs and has also helped to train three puppies, including the unit’s latest addition Jura.
The 16-week-old will spend around the next 12 months training to become a general purpose police dog in the hope he will follow in the paw prints of Gilly, Darren’s current partner, when he retires next year.
PC Darren Sewell with Gilly and Jura
And with nearly eight years of service, five of those working with Darren, they are big paws to fill.
Darren said: “Gilly is a truly amazing police dog and even after years of working together he can still surprise me. He is a very well loved and trusted member of the team.
“He’s saved a man’s life by tracking his scent in the middle of nowhere in total darkness. And after criminals had broken in to an industrial unit - abandoning their van and making off on foot, Gilly followed them across fields to where they had been stopped by other officers. He also found a disc cutter they had used to break in - it was hidden in a ditch about 20 yards away.
“The day I have to head out on shift without him there will definitely be a tear in my eye. He’s been on shift with me for years so it’ll be very strange without him. He knows when it’s time to go to work and always bounds to the car waiting to get in. I think it’ll take us both a bit of time to get used to it when he does retire.”
And when the time comes for Gilly to put his paws up he’ll have some furry friends at home to keep him company - 14-year-old retired Belgian Malinois Stella, who served for nine years, four of those alongside Darren, as well as 11-year-old pet Labrador Marley.
Stella and Marley relaxing at home
“The next 12 months are going to be very busy, out on the streets with Gilly but also preparing Jura. He’s already started some basic training – getting him used to a variety of sights, sounds and smells, as well as beginning to track different scents.
“He’s making good progress and starting to show some real promise. I’ve got high hopes for this future as a working police dog,” added Darren.
But until then Gilly will continue protecting and serving the communities of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland – and Darren feels very fortunate to have him by his side.
“I feel extremely lucky to be doing my ultimate dream job. The talent and intelligence Gilly and all the dogs in our unit show is just incredible. The bond we share with these animals is definitely unique.”
Leicestershire Police is currently recruiting for officers. If you are interested in a career with us, visit: www.leics.police.uk/joinus