Police Dogs or K9’s have become very commonplace in our everyday lives. Travel though an airport or spend a day that the mall you are sure to see these extremely well training police canines “working” right alone side their two legged partners.
Nearly a day doesn’t pass when I don’t read about an heroic act, a drug bust, or far too often a tragic injury or death of one of these highly trained law enforcers.
Always curious by the many facets public safety training for both policeman and firefighters I recently read an excellent article written by a Massachusetts news reporter, Jessica Trufant (see the contact information below), that added to my knowledge base of the world of K9’s, their training, commitment and (growing) importance.
Ken Ballinger is the Assistant Deputy Superintendent of the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department has seen a huge spike in the number of departments investing in police dogs following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. More recently AD Ballinger has been flooded with calls pouring into his cell phone in the weeks following the Boston Marathon bombings.
“These aren’t your grandfather’s police dogs,” Ballinger said during a recent training session. “Some of these dogs are just getting back from seven days in Boston with SWAT teams.”
Dwane Foisy, president of the Massachusetts Police Work Dog Association, has also received many inquiries from departments interested in bomb-detecting dogs since Patriots Day.
With more than 20 years as a K9 officer, Foisy, who works for the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department, just like Ballinger said he saw an upswing in bomb-detecting police dogs after 9/11, but then the demand dropped off. He said bomb dogs might not be realistic for small departments, because calls for suspicious packages peak after an attack, but then trail off.
“When you have a narcotics dog, they’re making seizures of narcotics and money, and there’s a return on the investment,” Foisy said. “With explosives dogs, you may not get calls for service very often.”
While small agencies’ interest in bomb dogs will likely simmer, Ballinger said the demand for multi-purpose police dogs is higher than ever.
For every dog that retires, we’re replacing it with five. said Ballinger
At the Auburn University Canine Detection Training Center in Anniston, Alabama Labrador Retrievers are learning the Auburn-patented vapor-wake training, which means they’ll be able to smell a plume of scent left by an explosive device that is worn or carried. John Pearce, associate director of the Training Center, said they’ve used vapor-wake training for eight years.
Pearce said the vapor-wake trained dogs cost $24,950 and dogs skilled in vapor-wake and standard explosive detection cost $29,950. The Labs trained in Anniston are used by law enforcement agencies across the country, including the New York Police Department and U.S. Capitol Police. Pearce said he couldn’t say with absolute certainty, but if one of his Labs had been at the Boston Marathon the pressure cooker bombs that killed three people might have been discovered before they went off. For more information on the training center in Anniston click here:
A Drastic Increase In The Use Of Dogs
A second-generation K9 handler, Ballinger 20 years ago never imagined that dogs in 2013 would be sniffing out contraband cell phones in prisons, or wearing cameras to stake out buildings before raids.
He expects a greater presence of K9s before and during large public events, despite some pushback from privacy rights advocates who may consider the use of dogs unlawful searching.
“Standards for privacy are high in Massachusetts, but the standard of reasonableness reflects the world we live in now,” Ballinger said. “A dog walking around and sniffing you is a lot less intrusive than a cop grabbing you and shaking you like a leaf.”
“There’s nothing in modern technology that will be more accurate or sensitive than a dog’s nose,” Ballinger said.
There is no state oversight or registry for the approximately 300 police dogs in Massachusetts, but Foisy said training and annual certification through a reputable organization or police or sheriff’s department is essential to the integrity of K9 units.
“When you go into court, you need to have the paperwork and justification for how you know what your dog is telling you is correct, and that’s through training and maintenance,” he said.
I encourage you to click on the link below to read more about the extremely valuable training work that Foisy, Ballinger and many others are doing. Get a history lesson and learn some interesting facts, for example:
- Learn how in 1903 Ivan Pavlov studied conditioned response in salivating dogs. A
- Learn how today’s police dogs are trained for “detection not destruction” of evidence.
- Food and veterinary care average about $800 a year, depending on the department and health of the dog. Ashland Animal Hospital, for example, provides care for Dax at no cost.
- The cost for starting a K9 unit ranges from several thousand dollars to $50,000, depending on who breeds the dog, where it goes for training and the equipment the department needs.
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Jessica Trufant can be reached at 508-634-7556 or JTrufant@wickedlocal.com.
Link to the news report: HERE