REDDI training preps explosive detection K-9 teams

Operationally relevant search exercises are an important part of ensuring K-9s stay proficient in recognizing the odors they are trained to detect


By Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate

K-9s are widely recognized as one of the best, most versatile mobile explosive detection assets available for law enforcement. In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Detection Canine Program established the Regional Explosives Detection Dog Initiative (REDDI) to help provide state and local law enforcement K-9 handlers and trainers with the tools, techniques and knowledge to better train and deploy detection K-9s.

The two-day REDDI training includes odor recognition trials and operationally relevant scenarios. Realistic threat devices are strategically placed throughout a venue that is provided by the hosting law enforcement agency to ensure assessment is in the K-9 team’s working environment. The K-9 teams are then tasked with the job of finding the threats.

An explosive detection K-9 team working in an operational search scenario at a DHS S&T REDDI event in Miami, Florida. (Photo/DHS)
An explosive detection K-9 team working in an operational search scenario at a DHS S&T REDDI event in Miami, Florida. (Photo/DHS)

Operationally relevant search exercises are an important part of ensuring K-9s stay proficient in recognizing the odors they are trained to detect. Other REDDI highlights include classroom elements providing an overview of explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with a focus on the domestic threat, and training aid storage and handling.

“S&T has the ability to bring this opportunity directly to state and local canine teams,” said Don Roberts, S&T’s Detection Canine Program Manager. “State and local law enforcement is the leading edge on protecting the homeland, but many of these teams have limited access to the latest knowledge on explosive threats or don't have the resources available to replicate an operationally relevant scenario and REDDI brings that to them. In return, we are collecting valuable data from all over the country that is helping to guide the direction of our R&D investment to meet the challenges faced throughout the Homeland Security Enterprise.”

To date, 16 REDDI events have been held, supporting 226 detection K-9 teams encompassing 92 jurisdictions from Florida to Connecticut to California. A typical REDDI event is hosted in a region where several nearby local law enforcement agencies can easily participate and benefit. The multi-jurisdictional nature of this format provides a networking opportunity between K-9 handlers from different agencies, and feedback from participants suggests this is a valuable element as they compare notes with each other on potential gaps and vulnerabilities and their solutions.

“When I first heard about the program, I thought this would be excellent for our bomb guys,” said Sergeant William Brown of the Kansas City (Missouri) Police Department. “As trainers and handlers, we get accustomed to just doing our own thing and not seeing what else is out there. It's opened up some eyes to some things and actually giving us things that we need to go back and work on.”

“One of the things that's unique about the S&T Detection Canine Program is that we have built a cadre of experts, from canine operations and training subject matter experts to scientists with expertise in odor chemistry,” said Roberts. “The exciting thing about REDDI is that it gives us a way to not only share all this expertise with canine teams on the state and local level, but it helps us see what challenges and needs there might be that we can help address.”

Agencies interested in hosting REDDI should contact SandT.PCS@hq.dhs.gov

 

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