Effectiveness of a Criminal Justice Policy: K9 Units
The effectiveness of the special police units called K9, or canine, in the field of law enforcement will be further analyzed and justified with relevance to their overall integrity. Police have been using dogs in their patrol and investigation forces, including narcotics, SWAT, (tactical), and even homicide to apprehend criminals and detect criminal evidence successfully for over two decades. Since the early 1980’s German Shepherds and various other dog breeds have been used to bring chase and arrest successfully to many criminal suspects (Savage, 1996). Hargreaves (1996) states that Dutch police have been training dog handlers for police departments throughout the world since 1919. The dog handler is a specially trained police officer that must go through intensive additional training with the K9. That is only after applying and being accepted into a special police unit usually after showing strong interest in working with these dogs and already exhibiting excellent proficiency as a patrolman
Police K9 are named this because of there protruding sharp teeth located next to the incisor teeth, or “canine tooth”. Although common dogs are sometimes referred to as canine deriving from the same species, a police K9 is much different from your family pet because of the intense training they must undergo. The keen sense of smell that a K9 possesses is what police attune to there work, placing the dogs in a variety functions and working tasks. A K9 has such an acute sense of smell they will most frequently detect substances that are no longer present such as narcotics, guns, and bombs (Green, 2004). A dog’s sense of smell is so much greater than that of a human; we have very little capacity to identify with their capabilities except through the use of working dogs. In fact, a trained K9 dog has a sense of smell that is thousands of times greater than their human police partner (Hargreaves, 1996). Dogs have become more than just pets or protectors of livestock. It has been said that dogs are “mans best friend”; they have become a loyal and dependable asset for police in the detainment and arrest process of suspects, providing effective protection and safety to officers in the line of duty. Deployment of dogs as crime fighters has lead to the arrest of criminals wanted for serious felonies such as homicide and drug trafficking.
A K9 with above average success rate named Yogi, has had phenomenal results with tracking and identifying criminals. In Colorado courts Hargreaves (1996) exclaimed Yogi has identified over 25 criminal suspects and has nearly a 100% conviction rate.
Hargreaves (1996) expresses, the Bloodhound Yogi’s accomplishments as follows:
“Yogi's resume is impressive: 4 kidnapping cases (2 convictions, 2 pending prosecution), 45 homicides (sending 14 murderers to prison), and 350 other cases (with only 1 acquittal) (Hargreaves, 1996).” This is only one example of a K9 that has been used effectively on the street to help reduce crime.
Previously it was stated that the sense of smell, or scent identification and tracking, are the primary tools used by a K9 unit in conjunction with an effective working dog handler to locate specific types of evidence police are looking for. Scent can come from a variety of different places such as narcotics, oils, skin particles, chemicals, ammunition powders, and other sources. The potency of a scent can be greatly impacted being either enhanced or reduced do to a variety of time altered or environmental factors. During controlled training sessions a K9 will consistently pick up on items used as training aids that were previously at a location but no longer present (Green, 2004). This means that the odors of substances such as marijuana, or plastic explosives leave trace amounts of scent behind after removed from a particular area. Testing for the K9 is done in an environment that is as close as it gets to the outside world where things such as temperature, moisture, weather, and also other distractions such as food, are often used to better simulate the street. To get a clearer understanding of scent detection accuracy Green (2004) states:
“Depending on time, location, and the components of that location (porous/nonporous surfaces), atmospheric conditions, and numerous other factors, the level of odor absorption and length of odor retention will vary greatly.”
Our bodies are naturally always decaying leaving behind dead skin cells, sweat, and various gases. When a human walks on the grass for example, organic traces are being displaced at a significant rate during travel creating chemical reactions with the ground surfaces (Mesloh, 2006). Fibers from clothing may contain scents of cologne, perfume, sweat or perhaps crab legs that a suspect had for dinner. Some substances such as skin and sweat may degrade within less than a day’s time and may not be detectable to most dogs (Mesloh & Mesloh 2006). Oils of the body of a suspect usually last longer and break down at a much slower rate. This means that an area can be searched to no avail one day, and a canine unit brought in the next day or so with a greater chance for a criminal apprehension (Mesloh & Mesloh, 2006). With advancements in law enforcement including K9 units, reliable submission of DNA evidence and the constant upgrading of training procedures available now, criminals have a much more difficult time getting away with crime. A suspect or missing person can be tracked for miles or days after the initial victimization. Drugs can be seized by the faintest odor, deeply hidden in vehicles or other solid-sound compartments wherever they may be located far or near by a competent K9 unit.
A case involving a burglary suspect who had stolen a ring and later confessed to detectives of his crime had been solved with the use of a K9 unit search. The felon tossed the stolen ring in a large field and police searched for the item several times with by hand and also metal detectors. As a last attempt the police summoned a K9 unit to search the property for the ring after twelve long days. A German shepherd later recovered the stolen jewelry with the detection of human scent embedded on the surface of the ring. This was the longest period of time on record that a K9 was successful in search and recovery of an item (Mesloh & Mesloh, 2006). The uncanny ability for the nose of an animal to surmount a machine like a metal detector is amazing.
Another example of efficient K9 duty showcases the ability of dogs to track victims and perpetrators for miles. In Colorado Hargreaves (1996), describes how a K9 tracked a five-year-old girl by scent for 14 miles, after searching for 7 hours from where her kidnapping had first occurred. She was found only a mile from where the dog initially tracked her scent. The next day after surveying the area where the body was found the suspect was apprehended in a nearby apartment building. Solved cases like the instances described give hope to our public safety, and chiefly the law enforcement; criminal justice communities. Since K9 units are so versatile and effective the greater appearance of them may deter criminals from trying to commit crimes for fear of being caught. With a K9 on your trail you can run but you can’t hide!
As with any specialized units of police, an officer that operates a K9 unit must first become familiarized with laws that are specific to their role. Laws regarding use of deadly force, probable cause, and search and seizure are vital for the officer to be effective in implementing them in the field. Being physically and also mentally fit is a major prerequisite to consider for police choosing K9 as their specialty. Not every candidate gets accepted to police academy, but even less graduate and get to go on to specialized training programs of interest (Green, 2004). Another clarifying statement sums up this notion that running a K9 unit isn’t for everyone, Green (2004) says “Dismissal of a handler who just spent numerous weeks in training may be hard for management to accept, but they have to realize that, like SWAT or other specialized units, not everyone is cut out to be a canine handler.” After all, being amongst the most feared law enforcers doesn’t come without a high price tag. Society puts so much emphasis on laws, gun control, and animal rights there are multiple issues to overcome in gaining the trust of the public eye as a canine cop. K9 police simultaneously transport animals trained to inflict deadly force, are armed with firearms such as pistols and shotguns, plus afforded the rights to search citizens personal property within reason, or probable cause. Most people wouldn’t enjoy being pursued by K9 police. Criminals have shot at police dogs when attempting to flee. Killing a K9 dog is punishable to the same extent as that of killing a human officer. Some dogs even get their own “swearing in” ceremony when completing training for a department. Specialized police K9 duty takes dedicated police that must be willing and able to put forth the extended amount of effort required to train and certify for a unit position and uphold the laws there after.
Questions have risen about the use of K9 units suggesting they may be intrusive of citizen’s rights or applying excessive force to criminals. Part of the cause for this is inherent in our Democratic society that criminals are innocent until proven guilty in a court system. Protecting the rights of criminals to the extent that it is done in today’s world of a more liberal viewpoint may endanger common law abiding citizens. People feel that they can do whatever they please with no consequences for there actions. Trainers and police administrators of K9 programs need to be very familiar with laws as they pertain to the specialty (Green, 2004). One case of the 9th U.S. Circuit court of Appeals at San Francisco was examined when allegations of excessive force were brought up on the unit involved. Running from a bank robbery Ronald Mendoza was ferociously attacked and bitten by a dog deployed by the Los Angeles Police Department. “The appellate court had little trouble affirming the dismissal of Mendoza's lawsuit alleging use of excessive force by the police (Savage, 1996)." Using a police dog to find Mendoza, and to secure him until he stopped struggling and was handcuffed, was objectively reasonable under the circumstances," the court ruled (Savage, 1996).”
A case where a suspect who was armed and dangerous running from police and hiding out in an abandoned warehouse ended in the suspect being violently bitten by a K9 (Savage, 1996). The officer deployed his dog to find the armed perpetrator in the building for his own safety and possibly the safety of others. It was found that, since deaths are not common in police dog cases, sending out dogs does not constitute deadly force according to Robinette, the 6th Circuit (Savage, 1996). Further established by Savage (1996) "This is a case where an-officer was forced to explore an enclosed unfamiliar area in which he knew a man was hiding," the court noted. "Under the totality of the circumstances, [the officer] was justified in using whatever force was necessary, even deadly force, to protect oneself, and to apprehend the suspect." Self-defense is a wonderful plea when it is aimed at justice. No greater cause can come out of the use of any means to protect innocent bystanders from acts of violence threatening their life and health. A convincing validation of effective and rightful force used by dogs from Savage (1996) “Courts have not been any more sympathetic to those suspects being sought for minor crimes who have been badly bitten by police dogs.”
K9 units are highly effective tool utilized by the police in order to better handle investigations, find missing persons, locate explosives and narcotics and must importantly offer protection while apprehending or arresting dangerous suspects. K9 units serve an important effective role in society in the fight against crime. Police who have been trained to utilize this special skill should be commended for their honor and perseverance. Canine’s have and will continue to provide man with a valuable friend and counterpart in all things that are dignified.
Green, Bernie(2004, April). Well Trained and Reliable Canine. Law & Order. Wilmette ,52, Iss. 4, p. 38-40.
The value of dogs used for drug detection is appraised. CBS News aired a show on the effectiveness of trained K9 units, including dog and handler on drug detection. Methods of the training process for K9 units are approached and highlighted.
Hargreaves, Guy (1996, Jan). Detection dog lineup. J. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Washington, 65, Iss. 1, p. 14-17.
Detection dog techniques used by the Dutch Police are discussed. Percentages of successful criminal lineup identifications are surveyed. The overall amazement and quality, of a K9 dog’s acuteness of its senses plus mobility and apprehension capabilities are clearly illustrated.
Mesloh ,Charles, and Mesloh,Jennifer(2006, Jul/Aug). Trained Dogs in the Crime Scene Search. Journal of Forensic Identification, Alameda, 56, Iss. 4, pg. 534-540.
Issues regarding K9 dog’s capacity to recognize scents are researched and reviewed. Climate factors as well as scent characteristics and environmental residual properties are questioned. The subject of data collection is experimented with, and manipulated to give us a degree of scrutiny towards the effectiveness of a K9.
Savage, David(1996, Sep). When bites are worse than barks. G. ABA Journal. Chicago, 82, p. 38-40.
Police dogs have been used with alleged excessive force for the apprehension of criminals. Court opinions have been interchangeable on the topic of whether or not police dogs have been accountable for police brutality issues or not. Furthermore, police have the required training to implement the K9 to do the job that they are intended to do. If criminals don’t wish to be bitten, then they should simply not run, jump, hide or commit illegal acts in the first place. With that being said, excessive force will never be an issue. Police dogs, and K9 units are meant to intimidate perpatraitors who should be aware of the consequences of their own actions that entangle them with the law in the first place, such as robbery, narcotics, and murder.