Meet the man in charge of the Coast’s dog squad

by REBECCA MUGRIDGE

One minute they are relaxing at home, the next they are leaping into the back of a ute ready to catch a criminal. These are the Coast’s police dogs.

“You think you have no chance of finding someone but the dogs will track them,” says dog squad officer-in-charge Sergeant Craig Law. 

Sgt Law says that while there are always variables in each situation, he has seen many successful police operations conducted with dogs and couldn’t imagine working without one.

“One time at the national park someone was missing, basically a couple of hours from death, and they were located,” he says. “Another time in Nambour, an attempted murder, they were tracked down even though searching began an hour and a half later. 

“My previous boss Darrell, when Sian Kingi happened, he and his dog were one of the first ones who attended the scene. 

“They don’t get a lot of accolades – they sort of go in, do the job and leave. It is more about what we bring to other police. You can get to a party and there are 400 people out of hand, 10 police cars there, and they all don’t care less. An angry police dog turns up and that all changes.

The dogs are later rewarded for their efforts. 

“They get a big pat and a play, maybe a sausage roll after or something,” Sgt Law says. “They enjoy it.”

The dog squad started on the Coast in 1982 with two dogs, increasing to four dogs by around 1996 and now has six operational dogs.

There are also different types of police dogs, Sgt Law says. 

“General-purpose dogs, track armed offenders, the drug detection unit, cadaver work,” he says. “Dogs went down to Victoria in the bushfires for searches, and others are used in high-profile murder cases. Some are blood detection, even a money dog.”

The skills are something technology can never replace, he says, which is why the dogs are used globally. 

“About three years ago I spent a week with a canine unit in the US – great experience,” Sgt Law says. “I went along to a training session, next thing a chopper comes over, ‘LAPD! LAPD! Canine is training in your block – stay in your house or you may be bitten!’

“Wind scenting is a technique many dogs use in tracking. We were at a high school break-in, the wind changed and the dog’s ears pricked up. He charged right at the bush. I’m calling out, ‘Police! ‘Police dog! Come out, hands on head.’ And they literally stood up just a metre right in front of the dog.” 

Sgt Law was drawn to a police career. 

“My dad was in the police and it was something I just really liked,” he says. “My own son just started at the police academy – we call him ‘the fourth’ because my grandfather was in the Victorian coppers, a mountie – and my dad was NSW Police, and I am here in Queensland.” 

Sgt Law has had four dogs since he started – Ty, Ajax, Chuck and Monty (who died aged about five of natural causes).

“Ty was an outstanding tracker and athlete. Outstanding. But he was also the biggest sook,” he says. 

“Ajax, his tracking was nowhere near Ty’s level, but he just wanted to catch and detain people. He was so good at house entries and major incidents, sieges and just scaring the hell out of people. 

“And now I have Chuck, who is a really good balance. It’s hard to get dogs like him that have that really nice calm balance between being great at tracking and stand their ground through anything.

“Ajax became a family dog when he retired – he ran around home with the kids until his recent passing. They really can go from family pet to in the workspace and back again. They are pretty smart animals.”

The partnership becomes symbiotic for the human and canine officers. 

“If I’m calm, he is calm. If I am amped up, he is amped up. It just sort of flows down the line,” Sgt Law says. “We are conscious of our dog all the time. 

“We also work by ourselves so we are together the whole time. He listens to all my problems that are going on and just nods and never says anything – a staunch confidante!” he laughs.

Even the vet that cares for the police dogs has developed a bond with the animals. 

“Beachside Vet Dan in Coolum has looked after our dogs for about seven or eight years now,” Sgt Law says. “He has a great relationship with them. A lot of dogs become the handler’s issue and expense when they retire but he looks after our retired police dogs for free.”