Ultimate guide to canines k-9 in law enforcement

Male police officer talking with a woman he pulled over

Canine units in law enforcement

Potential law enforcement officers may have the opportunity to someday become an officer in a police K-9 unit. These specialty divisions, present in many law enforcement agencies around the country, may be studied in criminal justice degree programs as effective strategies in certain areas of crime prevention. Those with a bachelor’s in criminal justice who are employed within a police force will probably work alongside these trained dogs in drug detection and other areas where a powerful sense of smell can be utilized.

Becoming a K-9 officer: Becoming a K-9 officer may require those who have always been close to animals and perhaps grew up with a dog all their life. Certain law enforcement agencies, such as the police department of Gilbert, Arizona, ask that their officers be in top physical shape as they must be able to keep up with the dogs on long hunts.

Canine enforcement officer for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): The DHS uses search dogs for many different functions, such as checking for bombs in airports. Graduates of criminal justice and criminology programs who wish to be employed in this part of crime prevention will need to have at least one year of criminal justice graduate study as well as a number of other requirements.

Training for U.S. Customs: One of the more important jobs that canines perform in the law enforcement field is for the U.S. Customs Agency. These dogs are mostly used to detect drugs coming into the country, but some can even be trained to sniff out large amounts of currency.

Jobs canines may perform

Explosives detection: Canines can be crucial in helping detect certain chemicals and materials associated with explosives. They help in all aspects of police work and may be used in many military, federal, state and local agencies.

Apprehension: Since dogs can run much faster than humans, they can be essential in apprehending suspects who decide to flee on foot. A recent study shows that highly trained dogs were able to both apprehend and release suspected criminals and showed a bite rate averaging just 14 percent out of nearly 1,200 cases.

Defense: Although many officers may not require a defensive aid, some issues do come up where the skill of a dog can be useful. In the military, some dogs have been known to save soldiers from life-threatening situations.

Drug detection: Detector dogs have been used in increasing numbers since the 1970s in many areas of law enforcement. Drug sniffing dogs are taught to find all types of narcotics and may even be trained to find firearms.

Search and rescue: Search and rescue dogs help find missing people and can be employed for a number of other tasks, including narcotic detection and bomb sniffing.

Finding cadavers: Certain dogs are trained to sniff out human remains that may be needed for a conviction in a homicide case. Sometimes criminals will bury victims but dogs may be able to find these remains with some success.