12 September 2023
They say that a dog is a man’s best friend, but for Derbyshire Police Federation member Sam Brassington, police dog Stark is also his work colleague.
Having recently completed their training, Sam and Stark are now a team together helping to protect the people of the county.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I’m absolutely loving it.
“I love the idea of working outdoors, so to be able to do it with Stark after all our training together is brilliant.”
The journey for Sam, who has been with Derbyshire Police for the past five years, and 18-month-old Stark started in January when they were paired for dog handling training.
Stark, a German shepherd crossed with a Dutch herder, was his second dog after his first failed to make the grade, Sam explained.
“The first dog I got wasn’t very happy with confrontation so didn’t quite make it,” he said. “So after the first six weeks, I got paired with Stark, the dog I’ve got now.”
The pair worked together for more than six months, building their skills and relationship on the Force’s licensing course.
Sam said: “She came from a breeder, who did a little bit of training with her, and then we train together at exactly the same time as each other.
“We started with tracking, which is following a suspect or where a suspect might have been.
“Initially we started with a straight line with some food on it to encourage her to follow footsteps, and you just keep building on that every day.
“It’s amazing to watch her grow and develop.
“At the end of our training, there’s a licensing day, which is like your final exam when you put everything together. You have certain criteria that you have to meet.
“One is tracking, which you’ve got to do over a certain distance. You’ve got to meet certain things in obedience. Then there’s bite work, recall, there’s a whole raft of things that you and the dog have to do.”
Sam added: “It was absolutely amazing to pass.
“Given the amount of training we’ve done together and how long it was, I was really glad to have us both pass and to be able to get out there.
“Knowing the amount of effort that we both put into it, it was a great feeling.”
After passing the course and the licensing day, Stark was given a few days off to rest and, as Sam says, “just be a dog” before it was back out to work again.
And now the pair are almost inseparable.
“We’re a team,” he said. “She lives at home with me and comes to work with me.
“We spend pretty much all the time together. I love working with her.”
Sam, who previously worked in Buxton and the High Peak, said that no two days are the same working as a dog-handler.
“We get called to all sorts,” he said. “We’ve been called to a building alarm going off, and the dog can go and search that building much faster than anyone else ever could. The dog goes in and searches the building to see if anyone is inside.
"We get called to missing people. It might be where they’ve last been seen or there’s a large park to search and we can use the dog on the search.
“We go along with the firearms officers in case anyone runs from an incident like that. It’s really varied. Every day is different.
“Before I worked in the High Peak in Buxton and now I’ve got the whole of Derbyshire to go at.”
Sam added: “I never really knew what I wanted to specialise in when I joined the police.
“However, I always liked the idea of dog handling, having a dog that you’re with all the time, so I put myself forward for it.
“It’s like applying for another job in the Force. The applications come out, you go for an assessment day, an interview. It’s a fairly long process I think it took about a year, but it’s been worth it.”
Sam grew up with dogs which, he said, helped him during his assessment.
He said: “We always had dogs in the family but when I moved out I never got one. It was in the back of my mind that I wanted to go for his role, but I didn’t know how a new dog would react, or an old dog.
“The plan was to see if I could get on the dog-handling team and if not then I’d get a dog of my own.
“It’s something they require when you apply and something they ask when you’re assessed is how you get on with dogs and your affinity with them.
“They look at how you are around dogs and how you react. They can very quickly tell if you’re not a dog person!”