General Information About Police Dogs
A police dog is a dog that is trained specifically to assist police and similar law-enforcement personnel with their work. They can also be known as a K-9 unit (a homophone for canine), this is especially prevalent in the United States. The term is sometimes associated with German Shepherd dogs because of the long history of the use of the German Shepherd by the police and military for public order enforcement (and some forces use German Shepherds exclusively). In many jurisdictions, including Maryland, the intentional injury or killing of a police dog is a felony, subjecting the perpetrator to far harsher penalties than the statutes embody in local animal cruelty laws. In Maryland, an assault on a police dog carries the same penalties, and is prosecuted in much the same manner, as injury or assault on a police officer. This is because the police dog in Maryland is considered to be a police officer.
Most often, police dog refers to a dog who has been trained to guard their handler, and to find, chase, or stop a fleeing suspect. Most are trained to enjoy their work, with chasing and grabbing introduced to them as tricks or games that can be played only when the handler (a police officer) gives the appropriate command. The dog's goal is not to bite to cause injury; it is to grab and hold on to the suspect at all costs, which can cause severe injury to the suspect in the process. This means that the dog grabs hard, and a fleeing suspect can be bitten and severely injured when attempting to avoid or fight off a dog. Most handlers, if possible, give the suspect a verbal warning that the dog will be set loose if they do not immediately surrender, this is a often sufficient enough deterrent that the dog is not needed. Most of these dogs live in their handlers' homes and interact with their family and friends on a regular basis to ensure that they remain social and pleasant animals.A police dog and handler train and work as a team, because they must trust each other and understand each other completely when working in stressful, even dangerous, and often rapidly changing situations. Police dog teams have been accused of using excessive force in some cases, so it is critical that the human be able to manage a difficult situation wisely, to use the trained dog only as appropriate, and to be able to control the dog completely so that the dog can be called off instantly when the situation warrants.
Our Police Dogs
The Wicomico County Sheriff's Office K-9 Division assist Law Enforcement Officers from the Maryland State Police, Salisbury Police Dept., Fruitland Police Dept., Delmar Police Dept., Worcester Co. Sheriff's Office, Wicomico Co. Narcotics Task Force and the Dorchester Co. Narcotics Task Force. The K-9 team consists of seven deputies and seven German Shepherds Malinois cross; "Rookie", "Brune", "Uke", "Blech", "Diablo", "Rizzo" and "Drako". The K-9 team assists allied agencies in narcotics scans, searches (buildings, areas, articles), tracks, demonstrations (public relations), property checks (foot patrols) and criminal apprehensions.
There are several different reasons why we, and other agencies, operate dogs. These include:
- Public order enforcement dog - The 'traditional' image of a police dog is one used to enforce public order by chasing and holding suspects, or detaining suspects by virtue of the threat of it being released. German Shepherds are commonly used. Many of our canine units are Czech German Sheppard's shipped in from the Czech Republic. Our dogs are trained to apprehend criminals, when ordered to do so, and defend their handler at all times.
- Searching dog - Our canines are also trained to clear a room or building. Our canines may be released into buildings in order to search for suspects during an alarm call, barricade situation, or other such incident.
- Tracking dog - A tracking is used to locate suspects or finding missing persons or objects. Bloodhounds are often used for this task. However, our canine units are also trained to track persons.
- Illicit substances dog - Some dogs are used to detect illicit substances such as drugs or explosives which may be carried on a person in their effects. In many countries, Beagles are used in airports to sniff the baggage for items that are not permitted; due to their friendly nature and appearance, the beagle does not worry the passengers. Our canines are used to detect the odor of illegal substances from vehicles on traffic stops and search areas for illegal substances.
- Bomb detection dogs - The sheriff's office currently has one bomb detection dog. This dog is specially trained to search buildings and areas for explosive devices.
- Cadaver dogs - Some dogs are trained in detecting the odor of decomposing bodies. Dogs' noses are so sensitive that they are even capable of detecting bodies that are under running water. Pioneering work was done by Dr. Deb Komar (University of Alberta) in Association with the RCMP Civilian Search Dog Association in this area. The result was the development of training techniques that resulted in near 100% accuracy rates. Her research has been published in the Journal of Forensic Anthropology.
Common Misconceptions About Police Dogs
- Police dogs noses are about 10,000 more sensitive then the human nose. For instance, when we smell a pizza we only smell the general pizza being in the room. The dog smells everything on the pizza individually; the onions, cheese, crust, etc.
- Police dogs can track through or over streams. Crossing a stream, running up a stream, or even lying under running water will not cause a police dog to be deterred from the track.
- Bloodhounds do not bark while tracking, such as seen in the movies. Only one bloodhound is used while tracking, not a team of three or four.
- Spreading spices on the ground will not cause a police dog to lose the track or cause the dog to have a sneezing fit as seen in the movie "Cool Hand Luke".
- Tossing a steak or other food on the ground will not cause the dog to lose the track.