"Selling" the K-9 unit to patrol
In most police organizations the K-9 Unit is available to support the Patrol Division. How well the patrol division and the K-9 unit interact depends on a few important issues: primarily the familiarity, confidence, and exposure between the units.
Unless K-9 officers make presentations to patrol to explain how to operate in a tracking scenario, they should not be quick to criticize patrol officers for failing to minimize contamination of a scene. They must be taught how the K-9 can save time and effort on the part of patrol officers. I always try to remind K-9 handlers that cops are by nature proactive, they lose a guy in a jump and run, so they want to take the initiative to follow and find him. It takes restraint and understanding to realize that creating a perimeter and calling in K-9 is not a waste of valuable time, but rather the right way to efficiently locate and apprehend a suspect rather than tromping around in the dark contaminating the scent picture.
Additionally, if K-9 gets a reputation for being lazy and not training, other patrol officers will see it in the dog’s performance and lose confidence in the K-9. As a K-9 officer you are required to do six hours a week, but this is a minimum. A dedicated K-9 officer trains all the time, and trains on his own to make his team effective and efficient.
This exposure is also extremely important in tracking operations, where backup runs with the K-9 officer as his safety officer. In rural tracking, this backup officer is responsible for the handler's safety, so skimping on exposure is a big risk to both handler and backup.
K-9 officers should take the time to create a PowerPoint brief to help patrol understand what you know. Help them understand how to prepare a scene for a successful track. Show them what you need to get your dog to work effectively on a traffic stop when you are searching for contraband. Let them watch your dog work so they can understand the changes in behavior you are looking for during a building search (when your back-up may have a better vantage point) or area search.
It is the K-9 officer's responsibility to keep selling the benefits of the program to everyone. Interaction breeds familiarity and confidence. Exposure leads to a level of comfort with your K-9.
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