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The Protector

Issue: Nov-Dec 2009
50 Glorious Years of the
Mumbai Police Dog Squad

Canine 'Detectives’ that Sniff Out Crime

If the Mumbai Police force has its heroes, so does its famous dog squad, which celebrated the Golden Jubilee of its inception on 9 December 2009. While Zanjeer, whose role in detecting explosives during the 1993 serial blasts brought glory to the dog squad, Max, Prince and Lyka are carrying on their predecessor's glorious legacy. The three dogs stepped into action braving bullets during the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai and sniffed out RDX at the Taj and Trident hotels and the CST railway station.

“The Dog Squad's contribution to crime detection is invaluable. Even during 26/11 the dog squad helped us in detecting consignments of RDX at both Taj and Trident hotels. The Dog Squad has been a big asset to the police and it has a big role to play in the future too,” said Mumbai Police Commissioner D. Sivanandhan.

He said, “As we celebrate the Dog Squad's Gold en Jubilee, I would like to remember and recall the services of Zanjeer, who sniffed out huge quantity of RDX in Mumbai and Thane in1993, thereby saving scores of lives.”

Today, on alert 24/7, the dog squad is pressed into service to sniff out explosives, track down thieves and murders. Criminals, especially smugglers of narcotic drugs, cower at the very sight of a sniffer dog. The sniffer dogs are the first to arrive if there is any bomb threat to premises, be it an airport or a railway station or shopping mall. The premises are cleared only after the sniffer dog 'barks' okay.

Set up on 9 December 1959, the first members of the Dog Squad were Kumar, Bindo and Rajah - three Doberman Pincer pups gifted by the Doberman Pincer Club of India through the Maharaja of Baria.

The pups were far too young and playful to be trained, but when they came of age they had three trainers waiting to put them through the paces. All of them had been trained by Basil Kane.

A 'Major' Breakthrough

Basil Kane was then Inspector of Police, Crime Branch, and the Police Dog Unit was placed under him (he ultimately rose to the rank of DCP). Kane had earlier been sent to Britain expressly to learn about dog handling, and he had trained Major, an Alsatian, under the supervision of Scotland Yard's Dog Training Centre. He even brought Major to Bombay - certainly worth the trouble, for it was Major who helped to solve a murder at Aarey Colony in Goregaon.

The dog was made to sniff at a shirt and a lungi left behind by the criminals. He followed the scent to a nearby hamlet, went straight into a hut and stood barking furiously in front a tin trunk. The trunk was opened, and inside was a shirt with the same dhobi mark as the lungi. But since the court had to be convinced of Major's tracking skills, a special demonstration was arranged for the judges' benefit.

Kumar, Bindo and Rajah were trained in tracking, which was the only way in which dogs were used back then. Today, of course, the role of the police dog is far more sophisticated and includes sniffing out terrorist explosive RDX and party drugs such as Ecstasy. From three dogs in 1959, the squad has grown to 16 sniffers and eight more pups are being trained to join the team soon. While earlier the dogs were used only for solving criminal cases, the focus has moved to sniffing out explosives and narcotics. They are also roped in to check malls, multiplexes, Mantralaya and jails during anti-sabotage operations. A slew of hoax calls has only put more pressure on the dogs.

“Our dogs work in shifts so that they attend not more than two to three calls a day. Three of them Prince, Max and Lyka played an instrumental role in detecting explosives during the 26/11 attacks,'' said Steven Anthony, senior inspector of the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad in a newspaper interview.

Prince had detected explosives outside the Trident at around 10.30 pm on 26/11. The area was cordoned off and the explosives were covered with ballistic shields. This minimized the impact of the blast. On November 27, Lyka located a haversack on the rear side of the Taj, containing a bomb, which was diffused. A week later, while the Railway authorities were returning luggage to victims who had left it behind at CST, Prince found a bag which contained a bomb.

The crime branch has been mourning the loss of two of its stars Rocky and Deepa. In 2008, Rocky had traced a two-year-old child from Chembur who had been kidnapped, raped and dumped in the BARC jungle, five kilometres from her home. Rocky had also traced a flower-seller who provided key clues in the murder case of Kiran Khanna, an ex-censor board member, in Worli in 2008.

When the sniffers retire, they are looked after by the cops themselves. “We put them up for adoption, but have to be careful that they won't be made to work. Most families are not too keen on adopting old dogs. We accommodate them in the same kennels,'' an officer said.

How Zanjeer Helped Detect RDX & Avert Disaster

No account of the Dog Squad is complete without a special mention of Zanjeer. He became a star after sniffing out RDX piles in Bombay, Mumbra and Thane, thereby saving the city from further terror and bloodshed in 1993. When Zanjeer died on November 16, 2000, he was given a ceremonial funeral. In the death of the loyal canine, the force felt that it had lost a member of its family.

The Dog Squad today is used by three branches: The Crime Branch (five Dobermans, which are known as IPC Dogs), Bomb Disposal and Detection Squad at Princess Street (seven Labradors) and Aarey Colony at Goregaon for the protection of VIPs (seven sniffer Labradors).

Recently, the Thane's bomb disposal squad received a Best Team Performance Trophy and Shotgun, a dog from the unit won a silver medal in an inter-state police competition get-together. The get-together saw several competitions with the Thane cops participating in many of them. The cops participated in the photography, videography, inquiry against crime, computer awareness and dog squad competitions.
The dog squad team that won the prize comprised of two dogs: Shotgun and Prince and a team of police officials. The best bomb squad was adjudged by examining how the team detects explosive materials from vehicles, luggage and rooms in the area.

Mumbai police commissioner D Sivanandhan awarded the trophy to the dog squad.

The day starts with a breakfast of milk. About 750 gram of boneless meat is divided into two portions for lunch and dinner. About 250 gram of boiled vegetables, rice and dal, and 400 gram of bread are provided. Branded dog food is also given. Fruits and bones are given for chewing. Seasonal variations such as curd rice during summer are offered.

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