Detection of Human Remains
When a murder occurs, the bad guys don't always want to make it easy for us to find out exactly what happened. This can sometimes include trying to hide the body - if we can't find the body then they can't be presecuted for murder, right? Well, wrong - it is possible to try someone for murder even if no body has been discovered, but finding the body isn't just important for justice - it can help the victim's family and friends in the grieving process.
There are other circumstances when police might be trying to find human remains as well. If someone is believed to have drowned, or after a mass casualty disaster, we need to be able to recover all the human remains.
Human beings have come up with a lot of different technologies that can help with this search - ground penetrating radar, infrared photography, and aerial photographs. One of the best ways for finding human remains however is to use a specially trained dog.
Dogs have been trained to detect lots of different things - their sense of smell is about 50 times more powerful than ours. They have 300 million olfactory receptors compared to 6 million in humans. So far we haven't been able to come up with a machine as sophisticated as the canine nose, and we've gotten pretty good at training it to find what we need.
Dogs have been trained to find lots of different things, including explsives, fire accelerants, mobile phones, cash, or different species of wildlife. Police use general purpose dogs to try and find missing persons, or to follow the trail of suspects fleeing a scene.
And, most importantly in this case, dogs can be trained to find human remains. If any of you were watching the coverage of the recent fire at Grenfell Tower in London, you'll have seen that once the human searchers had done all that they could, they sent in dogs to try and find and recover the final remains. The dogs can also detect parts of humans as well - blood, semen, or even limbs.
It can seem mean, but to the specialist dogs it is just like a game for them. When they find something, they get a reward from their handler, and they're never sent anywhere it's not safe for them to be. At fre scenes, you will often see them wearing little bootees so that their feet are protected from what is a potentially dangerous surface - there can be lots of broken glass and metal there that isn't always easy to see.
And the dogs are very good at what they do. I saw a cadaver dog find a spot of blood on a car mat from a extensively burnt car. The blood was enough to prove that a missing woman had been in the car, and was a vital piece of evidence when it came to convicting her murderer.
All I can say is - Who's a good dog? You are!