With the emergence of more sophisticated technology and advancements many older police tools have been pushed aside; however, the K-9 is not one of them. The K-9 is seen in early American history as a tool as pioneers used them to hunt, haul, and most of all protect. As the county became more developed we saw the dog become more of an animal than a tool. However, in the early 1940's some started to more commonly recognize the dog as a tool again. The K-9 was used for military purposes, mostly protection, just as it did in early America. Vietnam was the first time that K-9's were really trained to perform a certain task. During Vietnam K-9's were trained to search for enemies in Vietcong tunnels and caves. There were also trained how to search and detect explosives and booby traps. Approximately 4,000 K-9's were utilized in Vietnam.
It wasn't until around the late 1960's that society started seeing dogs functioning with police officers and the K-9's were definitely not viewed in the valuable light that they are today. The K-9's at that point were mainly used for tracking missing people and serving as addition protection for that officer.
Today K-9's are viewed as an officer themselves. They are used for drug detection weapon detection, tracking, protection, and fighting terrorism. Most commonly at the law enforcement level the K-9's are used for drug detection. The modern K-9's can detect marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, heroine, and methamphetamine. They are extremely useful to officer's on the road because they are able to detect the narcotics far faster than any officer would be able to. As time has progressed officer's have been allowed to be more and more invasive with the K-9's and most recently been authorized to search a vehicle. A 2005 Supreme Court Case, Illinois V. Caballes (which occurred approximately 50 minutes north of ISU) made it acceptable that a drug dog search the perimeter of a vehicle once a driver has been stopped based upon probable cause. Also, the dog was accepted to be a knowledge and accurate tool; therefore, if the dog hits on the vehicle that vehicle can be searched. This case has resulted in dramatic amounts of drugs being taken off the streets because it made it extremely easy for law enforcement to apprehend narcotics.
The picture at the top shows the results of a drug bust that resulted from a dog being "ran" around a semi that was pulled over for speeding. The dog detected the narcotics behind a fake wall that was assembled in the rear of the trailer. Even if the officer would have opened the door and looked in the back he would not have noticed the fake wall without a warrant.
Although these dogs are mainly seen as complex and valuable tools for law enforcement agencies they are also still the loving animals people expect a dog to be. When not working K-9's live with their handler and are often very family friendly. These K-9's truly become the officer's best friend as they are always together either working or at home.
There is no doubt the K-9 units are one of the best tools that modern policing agencies have available to them.