Joint patrols highlight police K-9 Unit's role in threat detection

Hannah Teoh
Senior Content Producer
(From left) TransCom officer Sergeant Bryant Choo, K-9 Unit dog handler Senior Staff Sergeant Wong Wen Xiong and TransCom officer Corporal Jemuel Feng. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

If you haven’t already seen them, the officers from the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) K-9 Unit and Public Transport Security Command (TransCom) will be conducting more patrols at MRT and bus stations during this festive period.

Accompanying them will be sniffer dogs which have been specially trained to detect explosive substances. Working together, the K-9 Unit dogs and their handlers will work to detect any suspicious materials while the TransCom officers will handle situations such as crowd control and checks on members of the public.

While the sight of the dogs may raise some eyebrows, the animals have been trained not to proactively approach or sniff people, said the police. A demonstration of this join patrol in action was given to the media on Monday (4 December) at Bayfront MRT station.

Local media were also invited to the K-9 Unit’s headquarters at Mowbray Road on Wednesday (6 December) to watch how the the dogs and their handlers work together to detect explosive materials.

Esso, a sniffer dog from the Singapore Police Force’s K-9 Unit. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

Close bond between dogs and handlers

Sniffer dogs are selected when they are 18 months old and are put through a 12-week training course with their handler. During this time the handlers form a close relationship with the animals and learn, among other things, how to reach each dog’s specific body language.

The dogs are trained to sniff out illicit substances, such as narcotics and explosive materials, after which they are deployed with their handlers to places such as MRT stations and border checkpoints. Each dog-handler team is made to undergo a yearly assessment to ensure that they are fit for duty.

According to the police, handlers need patience, discipline and a strong sense of responsibility when it comes to training and caring for K-9 dogs, which are treated as comrades in their shared line of work. Handlers’ duties include feeding and groom their dogs, which are also given regular health check-ups by veterinarians.

While the breeds put into service here were not specified, it is understood that German shepherds, golden retrievers, basset hounds and cocker spaniels are among the breeds commonly deployed around the world for such detection purposes.

In Singapore, the bigger dogs tend to be used for public patrols while the smaller one are generally put on duty at checkpoints, said the police. The average working life for a K-9 dog is seven years, after which the animals a rehomed

K-9 Unit officer Senior Staff Sergeant Wong Wen Xiong and his sniffer dog, Esso, giving a demonstration on Wednesday (6 December) of how they work together to detect explosive materials. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

“My favourite part of the job would be working with different kinds of dogs and getting to know their temperament and capabilities,” said Senior Staff Sergeant Wong Wen Xiong, 34, who has been a K-9 Unit dog handler for 12 years.

Sergeant Bryant Choo, 21, a TransCom officer who has been on patrol with the K-9 Unit said he has observed the special bond between the dogs and and their handlers.

“We feel that the dog handlers as well as their dogs don’t have just this (working relationship). They’re really friends,” he said.

“They really pay attention and look to these K-9 officers as not just ‘my boss’ but as someone I can be loyal to, someone I can trust. I think it’s something that’s really nice.”

– Additional reporting by Dhany Osman

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