TAMWORTH is no closer to filling the empty police dog unit because not even the force's top cop can entice a handler to move to town.
In an exclusive interview with the Leader, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the city's permanent dog handler and four-legged crime sniffer position is safe but he "can't force people" to move permanently.
"It's not like rural crime or family domestic violence units. I can't rotate you in to be a dog handler; you've got to get to Sydney to be trained, or I've got to find someone in Sydney who wants to come up to Tamworth," he said.
"It's not that I can't give a position, it's just a really complex, highly-skilled job.
"It's just a little more difficult than saying to someone, here's a puppy."
The Oxley Police District-based position has been vacant since November 2018.
And, New England is eyeing off the prized possession, with Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall pushing to have a dog squad placed in Inverell.
Mr Marshall used Commissioner Fuller's visit this week to lobby for a dog unit to be moved permanently to Inverell, where it could be based out of the new police station which is currently being built.
"The New England Police District has never had a dedicated dog unit based here and it's about time we had one to boost policing in the region and the capability of our men and women in blue to keep the community safe," he said.
"I believe the addition of a police dog at Inverell would be invaluable in acting as a deterrent for crimes like theft and break-and-enter, while also aiding police with searching for missing people and reducing drug and firearm-related crimes.
"My discussions with the Commissioner have been incredibly positive and, like a dog at a bone, I am not going to let this one go until we have achieved that result."
Previously, the dog unit worked in both Oxley and New England commands, based out of Tamworth.
"You know I've been committed since we spoke in 2017 [in Tamworth], to getting more trained, more police, more capabilities," Commissioner Fuller said.
"It's not the position, it's just the nuance to finding an officer who lives in Tamworth, or who lives in the city and they want to get trained as a dog handler and move to Tamworth."
Since the 2018 departure, New England and Oxley police have to apply to have a dog unit travel to the commands to perform work, but this is unable to occur at short notice.
The closest police dog is based in Dubbo, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, or Newcastle. All four units are at least a 3.5-hour drive from Tamworth, and surrounding areas.
Officers have previously told the Leader it has hampered abilities to capture wanted offenders in pursuits and operations, when the previous handler was called upon.