A RETIRED police dog handler has been given a Queen's Police Medal in this year's birthday honours.

Paul Nicholls, a former Dog Handler with Essex Police, has been recognised for his distinguished Services to policing, particularly his dedication to our Dog Section and recognising our retired police dogs.

Along with other police officers from all ranks, Paul will receive his medal at a dedicated ceremony later this year.

Paul said: "It was always a childhood dream to become a Police Dog Handler, and it was a privilege to live and work with such incredibly talented animals, it remains my passion to ensure that the valuable service that our Police Dogs give is recognised and when our dogs are gone they will be remembered.”

Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: “I am delighted for Paul and his family. He has helped Essex Police lead the county in Police Dog recognition and training. It’s fantastic to hear that Paul is being recognised in this way. He has been a credit to Essex Police and his dedication to our police dogs has benefitted the force in so many ways.

“Paul has paved the way for a positive training regime for our canine colleagues and his devotion to recognising our police dogs with medals ensures that our police dogs are celebrated and remembered. He also has a rather dapper line in suits!”

After serving for over almost 30 years as a police officer, Paul hung up his boots in December 2016 and is currently fundraising for the National Police Dog Memorial, to recognise police dogs that have died in service. He has also teamed up with a colleague from Thames Valley Police Dog Section to hold a two day conference called Impact in Birmingham in October to promote good working practices for all working dogs.

Paul has worked with a total of eight police dogs and retired with his two police dogs, Cocker Spaniel Ludo, a forensic recovery dog and German Shepherd, Fidget, a general purpose dog.

Paul joined Essex Police aged 20-years-old and joined the Dog Section 2000. He has been instrumental in introducing more positive methods to train our police dogs and dedicated not just his career but his personal life to recognising police dogs.

During 2010, Paul looked at trying to increase the capabilities of the dog section, and in his own time spent the next four years researching and developing a project to introduce forensic recovery dogs in Essex Police. In October 2014, Police Dogs Ludo and Millie became the first forensic recovery dogs in our region to be used at crime scenes to identify forensic evidence. Police Dog Ludo, a Cocker Spaniel was gifted to us from a family from Frinton-on-Sea.

The first job Paul and Ludo were deployed to was a missing person investigation in Grays where Ludo’s nose led to evidence that was pivotal in the investigation. Paul and Ludo were recognised by Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh for their work on the case and were awarded a Certificate of Merit.

Throughout his career as a Dog Handler, Paul has spent his free time travelling to Switzerland, Sweden and the National Police Dog Centre in Finland looking to broaden his skill base as a dog handler.

Driven by his passion for recognising the great work of Police Dogs, Paul introduced medals for retired police dogs in June 2016. At the time, Essex was the only police service in the UK to honour its retired dogs in this way and the ceremony – the first of its kind – was held in Chelmsford.

He continues to work with Dog Unit Inspector Brad Dickel, the Essex Police Federation and the Essex Retired Police Dogs Fund to continue the ceremonies for canine colleagues.

For more information about the National Police Dog Memorial, visit www.k9memorialuk.co.uk or for more about Impact, visit www.impact9.co.uk