Dogs help Hertfordshire Police in new scheme

PUBLISHED: 12:54 20 September 2016

The Rappaw team

The Rappaw team

Hertfordshire Constabulary

Hertfordshire Constabulary has launched a new scheme for man’s best friend to help police build rapport with victims and witnesses of crime.

The ‘Rappaw’ scheme currently has 21 volunteers taking part who, alongside their canine companions, will assist officers with the rapport-building stage of the interview process.

This takes place before a statement is taken and can be difficult and lengthy due to the distressed state victims and witnesses may be in.

The scheme is being piloted until mid-October, when it will be rolled out across the county. Volunteers and dogs will not be present during the formal interview process.

Chief Superintendent Jane Swinburne, who came up with the idea of the RAPPAW scheme alongside councillor Susie Gordon, explained: “Often it can be very challenging for victims and witnesses to feel comfortable enough to speak freely with investigators, but it is hoped the introduction of a dog within this process will help relax them and therefore make communication much easier during the interview.

Police and crime commissioner David Lloyd, Rappaw volunteer Heather McDonald and her dog Peg the pugPolice and crime commissioner David Lloyd, Rappaw volunteer Heather McDonald and her dog Peg the pug

“All our wonderful volunteers and dogs have been through rigorous assessments carried out by PAT to ensure they are suitable for such a role. The volunteers have also received training so that they can recognise the signs of stress and fatigue in their dogs.

“Whilst clearly dogs will not be for everyone, the RAPPAW Scheme is another way of the force focusing on supporting vulnerable victims and witnesses of crime to ensure they feel comfortable and confident in speaking with officers.

“We are very grateful to the volunteers who are giving up their time, as well as Pets As Therapy who have supported our work.”

The team will also provide additional aftercare services to vulnerable victims, such as the elderly, and are linking in with Safer Neighbourhood Teams and other departments to identify anyone who may benefit from the scheme.

Police and crime commissioner David Lloyd, Chief Superintendent Jane Swinburne and her dog WinniePolice and crime commissioner David Lloyd, Chief Superintendent Jane Swinburne and her dog Winnie

Every volunteer and dog will be re-assessed every two years to ensure they are able to continue in the role.


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