Are you a K-9 officer or an interdiction officer with a dog?

I propose to you that there is a difference between a full-time K-9 officer and a full-time interdiction officer who happens to be a certified dog handler


Highway interdiction is a game of numbers. It’s a game of percentages. Thousands upon thousands of vehicles travel our interstate highways daily. A percentage of those vehicles are hauling illegal contraband.

The more time an interdiction officer spends on the highway, the greater the chance or the larger the percentage of those drug haulers he/she has a chance to interdict.

The more time spent on ancillary duties that take that officer away from the highway will interfere with his/her success rate.

Tremendous Assets
So keeping that in mind, one can see (especially if you are a dog handler), how much time it takes to maintain a police service dog.

You have training, vet visits, cleaning your dog, cleaning your car, cleaning his kennel. Then you have call outs by other officers wanting to utilize you, because let’s face it, that police service dog is a powerful tool in both narcotics enforcement and criminal apprehension.

I propose to you that there is a difference between a full-time K-9 officer and a full-time interdiction officer who happens to be a certified dog handler.

K-9 officers are standing at the ready — waiting and anticipating that call out of a fleeing suspect holed up in an empty warehouse. They want their puppy to get that next bite and apprehension as they should. What a great asset to any agency they are.

Full-time interdiction officers, however, are a different breed.

Important Differences
They also eat, sleep, walk and talk the job they love — scoring a large haul of dope off the highway. They love their puppies too, but they would much rather be sitting on the interstate lying in wait for that next hidden compartment than to be chasing some crazy who just robbed a bank.

Their dogs are a probable-cause tool — a purpose-driven tool much like a TASER or baton strapped on their belt — to achieve their ultimate goal of seizing illegal contraband in large quantities.

They may or may not feel the need to use their dog on searches as much as the patrol officer, but they have them if they need them.

Is there a need for both the K-9 officer and the interdiction officer with a dog?

Absolutely!

Is it OK for individual officers to define which one they are?

You bet.

Both can train together and learn from each other. The interdiction officer with a dog and the patrol K-9 officer both have so much to offer each other that they can learn from. They can co-exist.

If you are either of these — and you work with another handler who is your opposite number — then you probably get the point of this article. You already know that is that it is OK to define yourself as one or the other and still benefit from training with one another.

In the end, both have a four-legged partner in the back seat that loves getting the bad guys and makes you look good, whether they are taking down a fleeing suspect in a foot pursuit or finding that 100 pounds of weed in the tires of that station wagon rollin’ down the road.

About the author

Lt. Hawkes is a 23-year police veteran. In addition to his years of highway drug interdiction, Lt. Hawkes has worked in patrol, K9, investigations, narcotics, and administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Justice Leadership and Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.  He has been the recipient of both State and Local awards, including the Medal of Valor. His book, Secrets of Successful Highway Interdiction, which can be purchased here, contains eleven chapters on Highway Drug Interdiction.

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