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Patrol and the Police K9

Officer Gregory Price Williams
Ocean City Police Department
K9 Section Coordinator

Patrol Supervisors
Patrol Personnel

This outline shall be utilized as a roll call training instructional tool for Ocean City Police Personnel on the use, tactics and deployment of the Police Service Dog (K9).

There is no greater tool in Law Enforcement today which can deter criminal activity, deter aggressive action, locate hidden suspects or evidence and reduce the likelihood of injury to an Officer like the Police Service Dog (K9). This outline will give the non-handler Officer / Supervisor the valuable insight needed to aid a K9 team during deployment. Successful K9 deployments are a team effort between patrol personnel and the assisting K9 team: This outline will help us reach that goal.

(1) -To familiarize Patrol personnel about the limitations and abilities of the Police Service Dog.
(2) -To inform the Patrol Supervisor and Patrol Officer about street techniques and tactics that are critical to a successful K9 deployment.
(3) -To express the hazards, liabilities and documentation associated with a K9 deployment.


(1) Tracking (ground scenting by the K9, following a particular person’s path of travel)
(a) Perimeters
(b) Contamination
(c) Back-up Officer’s responsibilities

The success of a track begins at the very moment the call for service comes in. Officers/ Supervisors should automatically assign personnel to perimeter positions around the crime scene.

The square perimeter should be one block wide for every 20 seconds old the call is. Identifying the start point of the track and preservation of the start point is crucial to a track’s success. A physically fit, tactics minded Officer should be assigned to assist the handler on the track. Also keep in mind heat, rain, humidity along and contamination are factors that can impair a track’s success.

The back-up Officer should scan all areas of travel while on the track and advise communications of the team’s location. The back-up Officer should follow at a distance of not less than fifteen feet but no greater than twenty-one feet. The back-up should use minimal light during night applications and communication via low-volume portable or hand signals with the handler during all phases of the track is critical to the safety of the team.

(2) Building searches (a scent search for human odor within a structure)
(a) Perimeters
(b) Tactics
(c) Contact & Cover
(d) Announcements

The first Officer on scene to an open door or forced open door should assign Officers to perimeter positions around the target structure. Officers should maintain cover and discuss the entry plan with the handler prior to entry. The search technique should also be communicated prior to entry. The handler shall make three loud verbal announcements, allowing any person within the structure an opportunity to exit without incident. The structure should be searched by the K9 initially then cleared by the K9 team and back-up Officer, door-by-door, room-by-room. Use cover, low light, and move swiftly with the K9 team. Clear all closed doors, closets, and crawl spaces utilizing the K9.

(3) Area Searches (off or on leash, free search by the K9-team for any human scent)
(a) Perimeters
(b) Tactics
(c) Announcements

The success of an area search begins at the very moment the call for service comes in. Officers/ Supervisors should automatically assign personnel to perimeter positions around the crime scene.

The perimeter should be one hundred yards wide for every 20 seconds old the call is. Identifying the initial path of flight and preservation of the start point is crucial to an open area search success. A physically fit, tactics minded Officer should be assigned to assist the handler. The area search should start from the down wind side of the search area. This will aid the responding K9 team in locating the suspect due the suspects odor blowing directly in the direction of the searching K9 team.

(4) Narcotic Searches
(a) Vehicles
(b) Residential
(c) Contamination
(d) Tactics
(e) Preparation for the search

An Officer requesting a K9 to search a vehicle must ensure that the windows are shut, the engine is off and the vehicle is clear of visible hazards.
This tactic also applies to a residential search for narcotics, including shutting off fans and air condition systems. If an Officer has recovered or has observed narcotics in any area he/she should advise the handler prior to the search.

Once the K9 team is on scene it is the back-up Officer’s responsibility to keep the scene safe for the working team. Traffic, suspects and bystanders are the back-up Officer’s responsibility; the handler’s attention will be focused on conducting the narcotics scan. Case Law reflects cases in which a K9 scan of currency and subsequent seizure was over turned. This ruling was duly in part on the handling of the currency from the point of discovery. Be sure to use rubber gloves and protect the suspect currency from contact with CDS. When a suspect has no known source of income and he/she possesses a reasonable amount of currency connected with a CDS arrest. A currency narcotics scan should take place. Probable cause to believe that the suspect monies were earning as a result of illegal drug sales, a narcotics scan should also occur.

(5) Physical Apprehensions
(a) Graham v. Conner
(b) Justifiable reasonableness
(c) Officer safety
(d) Crowd Control
(e) Post apprehension responsibilities

When it comes to the use of force relating to a K9 apprehension; the (Graham v. Conner) objective reasonableness standard of the deployment must be evaluated. The incident shall be viewed in light of the particular circumstances at the time of the incident.

(1)The severity of the crime.
(2) Whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the Officers or others.
(3) Whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight or has concealed themselves and are lying in wait, posing unknown danger because the suspect is un-searched or weapon status is unknown.

When Officers contact a known combatant or wanted person, they should be cognizant that the mere presence of a Police K9 team should thwart any aggressive behavior. Suspects will more likely fight with ten Officers rather than be apprehended by a Police Service Dog. Moving crowds of disorderly people and protecting Officers from assaults is another function of the Police Service Dog team.

When a Police service dog is pursuing a suspect STAY OUT of the path of flight. When the Police K9 has made a pain compliance hold on a suspect do not get between the suspect and K9 or interfere with the handler without specific direction.

When a K9 team physically takes a suspect into custody, the suspect should be handcuffed first, then offered medical treatment. Photographs of the suspect and witness statements are important for post incident evaluation.

(6) Article Search
(a) Search area
(b) Contamination
(c) Recovery of evidence
(d) Chain of custody
(e) Photographs

An article search can be conducted for weapons or any discarded item handled by the skin bearing hand of a suspect. The Police Service Dog is trained to detect items touched by man that contain human trace odor. Keep pedestrian traffic through the search area minimal. Preservation of the search scene is critical. Once evidence is recovered it should be photographed, handled and secured by an Officer assigned to assist the K9 team. Chain of custody and security of the evidence is very critical.


The Police Service Dog should be part of the plan, but not the plan. Officers should utilize the unique olfactory abilities of the Police Service Dog to find evidence, locate suspects and to save Officers lives. Keep in mind the word TACTICS clearly means “how many opportunities will I give the suspect to take my life” performing in such a manner to eliminate those opportunities will keep you and the K9 team safe during deployment. With the aid and support of the patrol division personnel success during calls for Police K9 Service will more than likely lead to recovery of evidence and the location of suspects or missing persons. TEAM means everyone is involved!
Be safe, Be active, Be ready, Be smart….

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