Bikie plot to kill police dogs has cops on edge
Criminals have been hunting down police dog handlers, following them to their homes, threatening to kill their canines and firebomb their cars.
Worried family members claim Dog Unit police officers are "sitting ducks" because their cars are so clearly marked.
They claim calls for unmarked police cars have been ignored for years but that could be about to change with the unit's new boss ordering a fresh review of the risk posed to dog handlers who use police-branded vehicles.
The long-running issue will be addressed at a crisis meeting between senior police and the Police Association of NSW next week.
Internal documents reveal scores of examples where dog unit police with marked cars have been followed home or to motels and threatened with violence.
Earlier this year, photographs of one handler's house on the Mid North Coast were found on the mobile phone of a Finks bikie gang associate.
It came after the handler was involved in raids targeting senior members of the notorious bikie group.
Unlike other police, including detectives, a majority of dog handlers have to use branded cars, including driving to and from work.
One of the most serious threats in recent months included a bikie plot to ambush an officer and kill the police dogs.
In May 2018, several dog unit crews from around NSW travelled to Port Macquarie on the Mid North Coast for a training course.
At the time tensions between police and the local Finks outlaw motorcycle gang chapter were high following operations targeting the club and its president, Adam Timothy Smith.
In between training sessions, two off-duty officers in a dog unit car were followed into a fishing shop by a Finks bikie gang member.
The bikie, who the officers didn't know had gang affiliations, struck up a conversation with one officer in a bid to find out where he was going fishing the next day.
It was only through an unrelated investigation targeting the Finks that senior police got wind of the gang's plan to ambush the dog unit officers the following day, firebomb their cars and kill the dogs.
After the threat was relayed to the dog unit hours later, another handler returned to his home near Port Macquarie and found two men on Harley Davidson motorcycles sitting outside.
The training course was cancelled and moved to another location.
In August last year, Smith's home was raided and he was hit with drugs, kidnapping, assault and intimidating a witness charges.
No charges have been laid over the threat to the dog handlers.
The family of one targeted dog handler, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the officer's hyper-vigilance had affected the wellbeing of the entire family.
"A lot of the work the unit deals with is high-risk and targeting high-end criminals," the partner of one dog handler explained.
"They don't generally deal with the good side of the community and they live in the communities they target. Everyone knows from the marked cars where they live."
Other incidents where dog handlers have been targeted at home include a rock thrown through a window in Dubbo, people turning up outside an officer's home screaming his name and burnouts on another officer's front lawn.
Earlier this month, according to internal police correspondence, detectives informed a handler in Dubbo that local criminals planned to scatter used syringes on the front yard of his home, where his wife and children lived.