— Pamela Roth
With a stiff wind blowing across the prairies of Southern Alberta, Victoria police Const. Eric LeQuesne and his furry, four-legged partner Diesel make their way through a wheat field, hunting for a criminal.
They have no idea which way the crook has gone. All they can do is rely on Diesel’s nose to stay on the scent and find any evidence along the way.
Tracking suspects connected to crimes is the bread and butter of the work conducted by officers with the canine unit. So when LeQuesne and Diesel won the tracking event of the 2015 Canadian Police Canine Association K9 trials in Medicine Hat this month, it brought a tremendous sense of pride.
“It was definitely a nice moment for the two of us,” said LeQuesne, who hit the streets with Diesel in January 2014. “You get those days when you go to work and you don’t have a lot of energy, he’s got the energy to pick me up and he’s always willing to go to work. He’s just eager to please.”
LeQuesne attended this year’s trials with colleague Const. Sue McLeod and her dog Uno, where they competed against nearly 30 teams from 15 agencies across the country.
Over the course of three days, the skills of the dogs and their handlers were put to the test with various scenarios, such as searches for break and enter suspects in a playhouse theatre, and searches for evidence in a salvage yard full of rusted cars.
“We were dealing with a lot of elements there — wind, different terrain. Added into that, there was rattlesnakes to watch out for,” said LeQuesne, adding dogs had to find six pieces of evidence, ranging from as small as a key to a cell phone, during another exercise.
The dogs are trained to locate items that have a human scent and lay down once they find what they’re looking for.
“Some of the hides were fairly difficult — in really tall grass and underneath some culverts. You had to read the dog and make sure he was doing the right thing. I work with a dog every day and it amazes me to watch his ability and what he’s able to do.”
McLeod and Uno, who’ve been paired for at least five years, finished second in both the evidence and compound search, and fifth overall in the trials.
The competition was won by Edmonton police Const. Murray Burke and his dog Maverick, and wrapped up with a public event showcasing what the dogs and their handlers can do.
The Victoria police canine unit is made up of four constables who work with four german shepherds that are trained to search for drugs and firearms. The sergeant of the unit works with two labs – one that also searches for drugs and the other for explosives.