Thursday, March 8, 2012

K9 Units: One of the Many Tools that Modern Law Enforcement Agencies Utilize

The St. Paul Minnesota K9 Unit

In today’s era of dangerous citizens, drugs, weapons, terrorism, human trafficking, and other serious problems, police departments on the federal, state, and local levels have adopted the use of specially trained dogs to assist officers in their duties of protecting the public.  Also called K9 units, these dogs as well as the officers that work with them on a daily basis are some of the most valuable resources that law enforcement agencies can utilize.

Police dogs are put through a battery of tests before they are even sold to a police agency – they must pass obedience and agility tests, as well as be comfortable around people.  If the dog is able to meet all of these qualifications, then they are able to be purchased by an agency.  Although it is essential for training to occur throughout the dog’s career, the basic training between the dog and its handler takes approximately 12 weeks.  Most K9s are trained in multiple disciplines – some of which include: tracking, suspect apprehension, drug and/or explosive detection, arson, and cadaver.  The cost of the dog itself is approximately $8,000, in addition to the training at a cost of approximately $12,000.  In total, $20,000 seems like a ton of money to put into one dog – but the dogs often make back that cost in the amount of drugs or other illegal substances that they are able to detect.  This sometimes happens in one simple traffic stop.

Part of an episode of K9 Cops, a show
that features the St. Paul, Minnesota 
K9 Unit.  This is one of the most elite
K9 Units in the country

There are multiple breeds of dogs that are suitable for police work.  Some of the most common include: German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Argentine Dogos.  Different breeds are more suitable for different specializations; however, these three can be trained to be the most versed across a variety of tasks.  Here is a listing of different breeds and some of the things that they can specialize in.

Police dogs, in many agencies, are treated as sworn officers and even wear ballistic vests and badges.  In the event that a suspect tries to or does attack a dog, the suspect will be charged with the same charges that come with attacking an officer.  Should a dog be killed in the line of duty, they are often given a full police funeral just as an officer would.

While on duty, police dogs are one animal – but off duty, they are well known to be great with families and as companions.  For K9 officers, their partner is with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Officers must make sure that their dogs are good with their family, so that they can be in the house with kids, etc. when the officer and dog are off duty.  In addition, officers are responsible for feeding and caring for their dog, taking them to the vet, bathing them, and continuing training and agility work – even on days off.  It is essential to keep the K9s well trained so that they are able to function to the best of their ability while on duty.

K9 units are one of the most essential tools that law enforcement agencies have.  They are costly to start up, but they often make their money back after a short amount of time.



  1. This is a great article, perhaps one of my favorite topics regarding police work. I love the fact that police officers use dogs to help them in preserving justice. Dogs have the ability to hear and smell very good. The fact that they are extremely aggressive is a plus. Now when you broke down the cost and it come out to 20,000 dollars to buy and train dogs, I think it is well worth it as well. My reason for believing this is that a dog is incorruptible, making it the best officer in the unit.
    It is a wonderful idea to gives these dogs the proper burial as well. These dogs risk their lives as humans do.

  2. Very good article. I think K-9 units are far underutilized in this modern policing era. In my opinion, a K-9 can take the place of another officer, turning a single officer unit into a double officer unit. In doing this, it is my opinion that a department is much more efficient and effective than one without a K-9 unit. Their ability to located drugs, people, bodies, etc., is second to none. I also view a K-9 unit as a great deterrent. I would like to believe that a suspect who is thinking about fleeing the scene or fighting with an officer will reconsider that action when they see or hear the K-9 unit on scene. Over time, a K-9 unit will pay for itself over and over again. Additionally, having a K-9 unit in a department is also a great public relations tool. With the right temperament, many K-9 units can serve at fairs, festivals, etc. I think that an officer with a K-9 is more approachable than the average officer and has the ability to alter feelings towards a police department.

  3. K9 Policing is always a big interest of mine. I also wrote on canine policing for one of my blogs, but what makes me so interested is the controversy over the dogs ability to turn up a false positive, or basically a sniff error. It many supreme court cases these dogs prove to show a successful rate, but at the same time one error means they can fail. It's just very interesting to me because I had the ability to be part of a local K9 training day when I went to a local junoir college. I was to take a rag and wipe my face, and leave it on the floor, then take 10 minuets to find a place to hide out, the dog found me probably within 11 and a half minuets, from the time I wiped my face and took off. They are truly an essential tool to policing, and the fact that an alert from a K9 means probable cause is all the more compelling to me to become a K9 Handler!

    Awesome article and I actually do like the animal planet show!!

  4. I loved that video that you posted. That dog not only found the perpetrator but also grabbed and restrained him. simply awesome. I was brought up my entire life with German Shepherds, sometimes with two in my house at once. I have a lot of love for this breed and have seen the wonders that they can do. They were always very protective of us. One of my dogs named Boomer was 120 pounds and during the night would make an hourly tour of the house and make sure things were all right. Between those checks he would sleep between my brothers and my rooms. They are great dogs and I know they are perfect for police canines.

  5. I think the fact that police can utilize dogs to help them in their job is awesome. Who wouldn't want to work with a dog?! They are so useful in so many different ways--sniffing out drugs or humans, use in fleeing suspects, finding missing persons, the list is endless. $20K seems like a lot to put into one dog, but I think in the end the cost is worth it for the officer or department if it is helping them catch more criminals.

  6. I think the usage of K-9's are an excellent idea. They are able to detect things that no human has the ability to do. However, I struggle with the funding some jurisdictions front for the K-9. I am from a small town of approximately 1,000 citizens. Our community recently decided to spend the money and purchase a K-9. I feel this was unnecessary because our county which protects approximately 30,000 citizens has an accessible K-9 unit. With that said, I believe that they are a great tool; however, only for large jurisdictions.

  7. I think that K9s are perfect to use to help an officer find drugs or suspects. I believe mostly every town has at least one K9 dog. Most towns need to start to get more dogs because dogs can help scare offenders from running away from. Dogs are good to use when an officer needs to go into a house to search for a suspect because the dog is able to sniff out the suspect and if they suspect tries to run away the dog will run after him and bite him most of the time in the upper arm and rip them down to the group until the officer is able to catch up to arrest the individual.

  8. I think more departments should use these trained dogs. Although the costs are very high, these animals will be able to solve crimes in less time and their sense of smell is much better then ours. I think in the long run, these animals are a great investment. Since both the trainer and dog have to be trained for 12 weeks, there is a less chance that there will be problems arising. I think it’s a good idea to keep them trained through out the time that the dog will be used because they are ultimately liable for these animals. I really like the idea of the animals getting a funeral service because they are a fellow officer. Along with that, there is a special bond with officers and when a dog becomes involved, they are apart of that as well.

  9. I have always liked the idea of having a K9 unit for a department. Yes the dogs are great at finding drugs and suspects while in the day or at night. The K9 is a great tool that can come in handy almost all of the time. A dog can also be a great deter for a suspect thinking about running from the police. If you think that you can out run a dog think again, and then you are most likely going to be bit (ouch). I liked this article, and wish that more departments would consider a K9 unit. But cost is always an issue, and smaller depaertments may not have such a problem with drugs. The time to pay off the traing cost of the dogs would take longer in this case.