Meet Northumbria Police dog Russell as he wins hearts in vital work to keep vulnerable safe

He has a nose for sniffing out a friend and listening ear ready for anyone who needs it.

Friday, 6th September 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Sunday, 8th September 2019, 17:42 pm

Meet Russell the retired police explosives detection dog, who is embarking on a second career as a community hound.

Alongside his handler Pc Sally College and her workmate Nichola Strong, the 10-year-old cocker spaniel is approaching the first anniversary in his new role.

They have visited countless schools and community groups across the Northumbria Police area to make friends and gain trust, forging links with those who would usually shy away from any police contact.

Pc Sally College with Russell the dog and fellow community engagement officer Nichola Short at Sunderland People First meeting, where the cocker spaniel helped spread important messages about hate and mate crime.

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Russell lives with Pc College, who spent six years with Northumbria Police’s dog unit, and her husband Sergeant Gavin College, who was the dog’s handler during his working years.

He is cared for without cost to the force, but the difference he has made to its work within communities is priceless as it pushes out life-changing information on issues such as hate and mate crime and champion a project which can help if a vulnerable person goes missing, known as a the Herbert Protocol.

More used to searching buildings in the past, the pooch has become accustomed to being fussed on his tours.

Pc College said: “People want to come and speak to us and he’s helped break down lots of barriers.

Russell has visited schools and community groups since he joined Northumbria Police's community engagement team last year.

“Some people try to avoid us or don’t want to speak to the police, but Russell came into retirement and through the support of senior management he became the first community engagement dog – he’s like our mascot.

“Russell demonstrates very different behaviour with different people.

“With one man in a wheelchair, he sat still and just knew that’s what he needed to do.

“The first time we took him along to the Alzheimer’s Society, he jumped up into the lap of one man and his wife said it had been the first time he had smiled in two years, because he loves dogs.

PC Sally College and her husband Sergeant Gavin College care for Russell in his retirement.

“He has made a real difference.”

Community groups across Sunderland and South Tyneside, where Russell is posted with the community engagement team, say he has helped deliver training to make people feel safer and teach them what to do if they are feeling anxious or at risk.