Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department
Police K9 units provide many services including building searches, tracking suspects, and locating contraband like drugs and explosives. At some point during your police career, you may want to train as a K9 officer. If you’re starting your career with that assignment already in mind, you should choose a police department that takes a lot of pride in its K9 Unit. Unlike another police specialized unit where people can pass in and out without a lot of fanfare, this assignment is entirely different.
You must be prepared to provide a high level of commitment in time and energy to achieve a high level of performance from both you and your canine partner. As a partner goes, you could never find a more loyal and courageous partner than a police dog. However, his level of performance will depend entirely on the skills you develop as a trainer and handler.
Whether a police department is big or small, your assignment to the K9 Unit will depend primarily upon the relationships you form with members of that unit. Here’s where the similarities between a police K9 unit and another specialized unit part.
Member of Your Family
When you’re forming those relationships, you never want to come across as a self-styled expert. Police K9 training is just like a lot of other things when it comes to the philosophical and technical aspects. Those aspects regarding training will vary among police departments. One style of doing things will not necessarily be better than another.
In most police departments, your police k9 will be your partner on a 24/7 basis. He’ll be a member of your family, and he’ll interact with family members much like any other family pet. Of course, he’s not just a pet, because he’ll be a fully functioning police officer just like you.
Before I became a police officer, I had the opportunity to observe the incredible capabilities of police dogs and their handlers. So, when I became a police officer, it was my fondest wish to work with a police K9 partner. Alas, that wish would never be fulfilled. In my case, the timing and the politics never aligned, but my inability to grab my top choice assignment never diminished my appreciation for both species of K9 cops.
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