Leicestershire Police's most experienced dog trainer is retiring after a forty-year career -after overcoming a childhood allergy to dogs.
Leigh Emerson transferred to the force in 1987, despite being allergic to dogs as a teenager.
He then became a qualified police dog trainer, working with handlers and their dogs to master vital skills needed to track offenders, including:
finding missing people
protecting officers in potentially dangerous situations
providing specialist dog training to find drugs, cash and explosives
Leigh retired from operational duty in 2014, and was paired with a total of six police dogs during his career.
He was teamed with four German Shepherds, and three of those have been honoured alongside him in the force’s annual Chief Constable’s Commendations.
Two of these were for acts of bravery, and the other for saving a woman attempting to take her own life.
The fourth dog paired with Leigh competed against some of the best police dogs in the region in a series of trials for agility, searching and obedience as part of an annual contest.
“The adrenalin rush each job gave me is something I will never forget.
"Seeing the change in your dog’s body language to indicate they are close to find something used to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
"I still experience this when I see a dog I have been training start to show this shift as they hone in on a scent.
“As a handler, locating criminals who might have otherwise escaped arrest was a passion, finding a missing person was so rewarding and providing community reassurance during public order incidents was hugely important.
"I also loved any opportunity to talk about and demonstrate the incredible quality and skills of our dogs so I really enjoyed doing public displays, talks and visits to local schools.“
"As a trainer it has been a great responsibility but huge privilege to produce dogs and handlers that are such a vital resource for the force. When I see those I have trained being operationally successful - it is the next best thing to being out there myself".
Superintendent Lou Cordiner, force lead for the Tactical Dogs and Firearms unit, said:
“Leigh has had an outstanding career – 30 years as a police officer and 25 of those years being a police dog handler.
"On his retirement he became a police dog instructor. Leigh’s commitment to public service and policing the communities of Leicester Leicestershire and Rutland is exceptional.
"On behalf of us all, both within Leicestershire Police and communities – a sincere thank you Leigh.”