A Special Constable from Bedfordshire has overcome Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and a double lung transplant to become the UK’s first ever Special Constable dog handler. Special Constable John Power, 30, has volunteered with Bedfordshire Police for eight years.
John was diagnosed with CF when he was only a year old. Throughout his childhood and teens, he endured several spells in hospital. Thanks to medication and lifestyle management, his health did not start to deteriorate until 2011, when he began to struggle to walk upstairs without stopping for breath.
As a result, John took on a non-operational role with Bedfordshire’s Special Constabulary whilst still working his day job in Bedfordshire Police’s Force Control Room, and facing an unsure wait on the transplant waiting list.
While he was non-operational, John worked with two explosive-detection search handlers and their dogs at Luton Airport, helping to test the dog’s ability to detect explosives. It was this experience which led him to explore the possibility of whether, as a Special Constable, he could specialise in this area.
In 2012, John received a life-changing double lung transplant, allowing him to get back on the beat. Once back to full health and with the support of senior staff at Bedfordshire Police, John was accepted onto a training course in Surrey with Charlie, the three year old black Labrador.
Earlier this year John and Charlie successfully completed their training and Charlie is now a fully licenced proactive explosive search dog. The duo will work in the county searching for explosives, and carrying out checks prior to VIP visits.
John says: “My lung transplant changed my life completely and I feel lucky to be back on duty. I am doing things which I never thought would be possible, so I am making the most of every opportunity.
“It’s an honour to be the UK’s first Special Constable dog handler. I think it’s great that, as a volunteer, I am able to specialise in this area. Being a Special is my way of giving something back to my community and I hope I can inspire others to do the same.
“Before I started training with Charlie, I had him for three months so we could bond. Before our course we did some basic training with the dog handlers at Luton Airport to get him ready. He is a fantastic dog with great motivation and he loves his work.”
Wayne Humberstone, Specials Chief Officer for Bedfordshire Special Constabulary commented: “From speaking to other dog schools we understand that no other Special Constable has been trained as a specialist dog handler before. This is a huge achievement for John, and helps us achieve Our Vision of becoming a well-respected, high-performing, efficiently run police service working together to protect people, fight crime and keep Bedfordshire safe.”