What Do K9 Officers Do?
Canine, with their acute sense of smell, are experts at tracking down prey, be it illicit drugs or a fugitive on the run. It’s the main reason why they are paired with and work alongside K9 officers. Police dogs are trained from the time they are 1-2 years old but not all dogs have the right temperament for the job. Suitable dogs must have an instinctive desire to chase and apprehend prey, a defensive drive, and the ability to adapt to different environments.
Together a K9 officer and his police dog perform a number of duties, one of them being the detection of illegal drugs. They play an important role in the war against drugs. Criminals have become so proficient at concealing illegal drugs in all manner of objects and crevices, far removed from an officer’s field of vision that it would be nearly impossible for an officer to detect it. Dogs, on the other hand, with their superior sense of smell are seldom fooled by these tactics. That’s why you’ll see K9 officers patrolling domestic and international seaports, airports, and borders sometimes even having their dogs sniff luggage. The intention of this strategy is to detect and confiscate illegal drugs before they have a chance to enter the country. K9 officers will also inspect vehicles if they suspect that it contains illegal substances. The same rules apply for explosives and concealed weapons.
K9 officers are also tasked with tracking down missing persons, fugitives, and criminals who have fled a crime scene. This is where police dogs excel; with their keen sense of smell, they can track humans through a variety of terrains. They track down their prey using a combination of human scent and crushed vegetation odors. Police dogs can track down an individual faster than several persons searching the same area, which saves the department valuable time and resources. Sometimes during the search for a missing person, a K9 officer will discover a cadaver that has been abandoned in the wilderness.
K9 officers also play an important role in gathering the evidence at the scene of a crime. Police dogs are trained to locate spent shell casings and firearms that may not be visible to the naked eye of a police officer. Locating a spent shell allows investigators to determine where the firearm was discharged and allows investigators to match the casings to a firearm.
K9 officers fulfill another, less popular but equally important, function: public relations. The success of a K9 unit depends on the public’s perception of that unit. It only takes one bad incident to give rise to public outrage, which can sometimes lead to the unit being dismantled. The public demonstrations performed by K9 officers helps assuage concerns about the treatment of police dogs and the dangers they might pose to the public, as well as, help educate the public of their roles and functions. And that goes a long way in improving the public’s opinion of the unit.
The average K9 officer is paid an annual salary of $60,270. They’re also reimbursed for many of the costs associated with caring for their canine partner. However, the annual salary of a K9 officer earns will depend on the region he works in, with some regions like New Jersey and California paying their officer higher salaries. Due to budget constraints employment growth within the profession is predicted to increase by only 4% in the next 7 years.