We asked Inspector Leigh McManus of Police Scotland Specialist Operations, Mounted and Dog Unit West Command in Glasgow to give us an insight into a typical day at Glasgow’s Dog Training Centre.
When did you join the Police and how did you end up in Glasgow?
I joined Durham Constabulary as a Police Constable in August 1990 where I served for nine years before transferring to Northumbria Police on promotion to Sergeant in January 1999.
Following my promotion to Inspector in 2007, after a period in response policing, I became an Operations Inspector which meant when I was on duty I was responsible for managing the Traffic Unit, the Dog Unit and Territorial Support Group (TSG) throughout Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.
Although I have been very passionate about dogs since childhood, having grown up in a house full of ‘furry friends’ large and small, this period in my career was the beginning of directly working with police dogs, a role which I was extremely passionate about. It was not long before I moved on again and found myself Head of Dog Training with Northumbria Police which was my dream job.
In August 2014 my family and I decided to move north to Glasgow and at this time I transferred to Police Scotland, remaining as a Police Inspector, but this meant moving away from my passion, police dogs, to take up a shift Inspector role in response policing.
I remained within this role for a further two years, during which time I would regularly walk past the National Dog Training Centre at Pollok Country Park, Glasgow with my family and would think about how amazing it would be to eventually work within the Dog Unit again.
Imagine my excitement when I checked the internal adverts on a busy late shift in Glasgow only to discover the role was advertised for the Dogs and Mounted Inspector. I did indeed apply and was elated when I was offered the job in July 2016…and so began my second passion…police horses!!
I now have responsibility within Police Scotland for the National Dog Training School where all police dogs in Scotland come on their initial training and also responsibility for operational police dogs and handlers covering the West of Scotland from the Borders to Oban.
In addition, I also have responsibility for the Mounted Unit throughout Scotland and split my time equally between the two units.
I live at home with my wife, two kids, a Goldendoodle called Darcy and three Maine Coon cats called Basil, Beau and Skye.
Why did you want to work in the Dog Section?
My love of dogs started at a very early age and there has rarely been a time throughout my life when dogs have not been a big part of it. Although I have never been a police dog handler which is a massive opportunity missed for me, I still work with police dogs on a daily basis which is an amazing opportunity to combine a personal passion with working life.
As a young cop, police dogs always impressed me and still do today, so I have always been drawn in this direction. Now, I am lucky enough to manage the Unit and try to ensure that my staff and dogs have the best training and equipment to be the best that they can be and most importantly, that they can support our front line colleagues throughout Scotland.
I still get a big thrill to hear that our police dogs have apprehended criminals, found property or located vulnerable persons and are literally saving lives on a daily basis. I am very proud to be part of this and over 28 years on, I still walking through the office door every day.
What is a typical day for you?
A typical day in the Dog Unit for me is first of all to catch up with what’s been going on since I was last on duty.
This normally consists of chatting to cops en route from my car, hands free of course!, to my office and being updated with exciting and interesting jobs and of course, tales of woe on occasions!
I normally pop my head into the Sergeants’ office and if on duty, speak to one of my three Dog Sergeants again to see what’s been happening.
It’s also fair to say that the journey from the car to the office often results in numerous conversations with our K9 colleagues who are either barking ferociously in the back of a van or walking across the car park with their handler.
When I do eventually reach my desk, I fire up the computer and look at the 24 hours report which handlers update at the end of their shift with incidents attended and those where the dog team have enjoyed successes.
I like to recognise good work so I will normally acknowledge this with an email if the police officer is not on duty or a personal ‘thank you’ if I can talk to them directly.
To be honest, it’s then normally time to put the kettle on for a coffee.
As the National Dog Training School starts at 8.00 am the kitchen is normally full of dog handlers who are either on initial or refresher training courses, so whilst making my cuppa, this is normally a good chance to chat and find out how their course is going or to generally become involved in the ‘banter’.
With coffee in hand I will then head across to the Training Unit portakabin to catch up with the dog instructors and check how many dogs we have in the kennels before heading back to my desk to start on my ‘To Do’ list and generally answer emails.
I normally receive a call from my boss, the Chief Inspector, before 9.00 am each day, where I can update him with what has been going on in the Dog and Mounted world in the last 24 hours so he can report anything of note to his senior colleagues.
Sometimes I will go out and observe dog training (weather dependant!), but generally my role involves the daily management of staff, ensuring we have the capacity and capability to deliver a service to our colleagues and the public, ensure that we can deliver training and acquisition of dogs and equipment in order for the Dog Unit to operate effectively.
What’s the best part of working in the dog section?
The dogs of course! What more do I need to say! I retire after 30 years in the police in August 2020 and I cannot imagine not coming here every day!
How do you get any work done, especially when there’s new puppies running around all the time?
There really is no job like mine and I thank my lucky stars every day!
I can be sitting at my desk and all of a sudden chaos will ensue with either a ‘big dog’ or a little puppy bursting through the door to greet me.
This normally involves me dropping everything and rolling about on the floor with our furry friends and starting to talk in a funny high-pitched voice trying to communicate with them!
When I get tired of working at my desk, there’s no better therapy than going to see one of the police dogs for a ‘chat’ and a stroke. Often I get more sense out of them than my colleagues!
Have you a funny story from your career that you can share with us?
As a young 19 years old cop working in Durham I can recall being sent to a burglary alone in the small hours at a large industrial unit with reports that they were still on the premises.
As I got out of my panda I noticed a fire door had been forced and was ajar.
With back up some ten minutes away, and no option of a police dog, I reluctantly entered the unit, not knowing what I would face.
As I walked through the door and peered into the darkness, I had an ingenious idea…
I would pretend to be a police dog handler and shout out in the deepest voice I could…
“POLICE OFFICER WITH A DOG, IF YOU DON’T COME OUT I’LL SEND IN MY DOG”
I did think about trying to mimic a bark at this point, but felt my poor impression would be a step too far!
To my absolute amazement, a male crawled out from behind some boxes and gave himself up immediately after my challenge.
After telling him to lie face down allowing me to handcuff him, can you imagine his disappointment when he turned around to find I was alone and that there was no dog in sight!
By the time my colleagues arrived, I was standing rather proud with my prisoner ready to go!!