In an Australian first, the NSW Police Force is exploring the capabilities of birds, in this case Australian magpies, for use in law enforcement.
Magpies are renowned for their intelligence and assertive nature. If the project is a success, they could become the latest species to join a long and esteemed tradition of animals working with police to fight crime.
Known as the 1st Avian Policing Response and Intelligence Liaison (APRIL) project, it will be headed by Inspector Brian Peck, who will oversee the selection and training of the feathered recruits.
“When the project was first proposed, I didn’t believe it was possible for birds to be part of policing” stated Inspector Peck. “I’m happy to say that in the trials I’ve seen, the results look promising. They are very capable and adaptable animals – they could be a real asset to the police force”.
Studies have shown that birds such as crows and magpies have intelligence equal to dogs and some primates. The Australian magpie is highly social and capable of complex interactions with other birds within its species. The NSW Police Force hopes to harness this cleverness and apply it to law enforcement.
“We want to see if we can use the magpies’ natural curiosity to gather intelligence on criminals”, Inspector Peck said. Although yet to be determined, this may involve the birds carrying a small mounted GPS or video device.
“The aerial ability of the birds, and their relatively small size, means they can go places that people can’t. They are also quieter and less obvious than man-made alternatives such as aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and aren’t subject to flight restrictions”.
While magpies may be small, their assertive nature is well-known. Every year these birds swoop thousands of people in order to protect their territory. It’s this aspect that the police feel may assist them in the apprehension of offenders.
“With proper training, perhaps we’ll be able to utilise the bird’s assertive nature to assist police with the apprehension of offenders. These birds are extremely fast and agile; and display a strength and bravery that defies their size. A crook on the run, if swooped by a magpie, would certainly be distracted long enough to allow police officers to attempt a successful arrest”, Inspector Peck explained.
The project is planned to comprise ten birds, and commences today.”
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