Quality and consistency: the key to high performing Explosive Detection Dogs

Meeting high quality and performance should be the norm when deploying Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) teams , whether by police forces or private operators. While EDDs in aviation security are covered by EU legislation, this is not the case for EDDs in other locations. With the support of Member States and CoESS, the European Commission is now starting to address this gap by publishing Guidance on Operating Procedures for Explosive Detection Dogs in Public Spaces.

Apart from the aviation sector, rules for the use of EDDs (including training, tests, quality control, and deployment) are set by the Member States, and many national standards are either lower than aviation, inconsistent with the latter or downright inexistent. This is problematic, as the use of EDDs is likely to increase in many different public spaces. While there may be reasons behind adjusting the training of EDDs to the specificities of locations other than airports, the quality of training, performance and control should be the same. This is even more necessary in case EDDs are deployed in a different Member State, for example in the context of a mass event. Consistency in quality and performance is the key to offering credible and trusted security services in general and this is also true for EDD teams.

To address this issue and to advocate for quality versus lowest cost procurement, CoESS has joined a Workshop on EDDs organised by DG HOME on 29 November, where the Commission presented the work of its “EU Explosive Detection Dog Working Group”, which brings together 20 EU Member States and more than 50 representatives from different EU law enforcement and public authorities. Based on the work done in this Expert Group, the European Commission has recently published a highly valuable EU Guidance on Operating Procedures for Explosive Detection Dogs in Public Spaces. These guidelines shall provide best practices, key principles, and advice to public and private operators on how to most effectively use EDDs during different search missions in different work environments (public buildings, cultural sports events, transport hubs, maritime objects, etc). The document looks at a number of issues such as training of the dog and handler, search methodology, working environment, and explosive concealment, which all impact the detection performance.

During the workshop, CoESS highlighted that if dogs and handlers are poorly trained and the cost criteria overrule quality in the procurement of EDD services, low performance and gaps in the security chain are the consequence – just as with any other detection technology.

CoESS congratulated the Commission on the quality of the Guidance document, and called for an EU mapping of existing legislation, to which CoESS will contribute, and a common approach to EDD services, where quality and performance are the key criteria.