AT just 11 weeks old, Harper, the sable German shepherd, may appear cute and cuddly as she enjoys life as a playful puppy. But in about 12 months’ time she’ll become a key asset to police officers across Surrey and Sussex.

Harper has been introduced as a general purpose dog, designed to track, chase and detain suspects, search for stolen property and missing people, and assist public order units with crowd control.

Police dogs and their handlers are huge assets to their forces, and play a vitally important role in safeguarding the whole of Surrey and Sussex.

Together with her crime fighting colleagues, Harper will be used to catch even the most cunning criminals.

Surrey Police kennel master Emma Coles said: “Harper is still very young and she’s certainly keeping her foster family on their toes. But all going to plan, she will be issued to a handler in December, before going on a full training course in January.

“General purpose dogs are invaluable in the way officers work to fight crime. They are part of a team, and they support their handlers as much as their handlers support them.

Without a police dog, officers may not be able to find a missing person or track down a wanted criminal.”

Harper was among a litter of four puppies, all of which will go through the same process as her in a bid to become general purpose police dogs.

The task of naming Harper was given to a group of school children who were fortunate enough to be visited by her and Emma Coles on Thursday, January 28.

Kerri Martin, of City of London Freemen’s School in Ashtead Park, Surrey, explained: “We were looking through Twitter and noticed that one of the police dogs was having puppies, so we asked if we could see one. Much to our surprise, we not only had a visit from Harper, but we were also invited to name her.

“We’re all so grateful for the visit and we hope Harper goes on to catch a lot of criminals.”