Coventry students join canine counterparts for live police training exercise

Research news

Friday 09 December 2011

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Aspiring forensic investigators at Coventry University swapped the laboratory for a live police exercise yesterday as they joined West Midlands Police to help train the force’s detection dogs.
Students of the University’s Forensic Investigations BSc course spent the morning at the West Midlands Police Dog Training Centre in Balsall Common, Solihull, before taking part in a live training exercise in West Orchards Shopping Centre in Coventry.
Drug residues were placed on ten students, who then mingled with shoppers in the city’s retail facility while the police dogs were engaged to track down and identify them in a real time scenario.
The University’s participation in the exercise was part of a drive from the Forensic Investigations course leaders to help undergraduates of the degree understand and put into practice real-life investigative approaches to solving crime as well as laboratory-based analysis methods.
Students of the three-year course have the opportunity to use the University’s state-of-the-art laboratory facilities – which include blood testing and blood typing equipment, and finger print recovery technology – as well as a dedicated ‘crime scene room’ where they can apply the techniques they have developed and learn how to photograph a crime scene.
A makeshift courtroom even affords students the chance to practice delivering witness testimony in a simulated criminal trial.
Chris Hiley, senior lecturer in Forensic and Investigative Studies at Coventry University, said:

This was a fantastic and unique opportunity for our first-year students. To be able to spend the morning at the West Midlands Police Dog Training Centre and then take part in an actual training exercise with the force and its detection dogs offered a valuable insight into the investigative processes behind front-line forensics work.
These undergraduates represent the next generation of forensic analysts and investigators, so it’s important that they have the chance to get involved with the real-life practical elements of the work at as early a stage as possible. I’d like to thank West Midlands Police for giving our students this opportunity.

 West Midlands Police’s trained dogs are usually German Shepherds, Springer Spaniels or Labradors, and are trained from a young age to search for ammunition, explosives, firearms, drugs and cash.
The force boasts one of the largest dog handling establishments in the UK, with 70 officers trained to ensure the canines remain fit and healthy, well-behaved and with an aptitude for work.
PC Michael McGinty of the West Midlands Police Force, said: 

We were delighted to be able to offer the students a chance to get  involved with these training exercises and to help in the effort to get drugs off our streets. Our police dogs are crucial when it comes to combating drug culture and providing valuable support to the West Midlands Police Force, so seeing how we work with them will be useful for the students and their future studies.