Archive for January, 2008
Dogs used by police agencies are trained for specific purposes, and the breed of the dog normally determines the duty assigned to it. Strong, aggressive breeds such as German Shepherds and Rottweilers are normally chosen as patrol dogs. These dogs are the biters of police canines, and they are used for the apprehension of criminals, crowd control, and for the protection of their handlers. They are trained to bite on command, and they are trained never to bite a suspect who is standing still and complying with a police officer’s commands.
Canines make excellent partners. They’re very loyal and will go to great lengths to protect their handlers. To better assist canine officers, their patrol cars are equipped with a remote controlled rear window or door that operated by a device attached to the officer’s gunbelt. A push of a button (above photo) opens the door allowing the dog to come to his partner’s aid.
Patrol dogs are trained to bite as a game. During their training, they are taught to bite a suspect who is wearing either a padded sleeve on one arm or a full bite-suit. The instructors make biting a game for the dogs, so it is fun for them to sink their teeth into their suited prey, and they are rewarded and praised for doing so.
Patrol dogs are not trained to be mean. They just want to play in the way they were taught – by biting. I have seen some K-9s that liked to bite so much they would bump a suspect with their nose, hoping he would move so they could bite him. One particular dog that comes to mind buried his nose in a suspect’s crotch and then nudged gently - his way of trying to get the guy to move so he could bite.
Less aggressive breeds, such as Golden and Labrador Retrievers make excellent narcotics- and explosive-detection dogs. Narcotics-detection canines are normally taught to detect four kinds of drugs, such as marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. But they can be trained to detect others, including mushrooms and various pills. They can be taught to aggressively alert police officers by scratching around the area where they’ve detected the drugs, or they can be taught to sit, on their discovery – a passive alert. For obvious reasons, explosive-detection dogs are taught to alert passively.
Search-and-rescue dogs are trained to find people by using their keen sense of smell. Dogs have the ability to detect several scents at once. Where humans smell a pot of stew cooking, dogs differentiate the individual ingredients – onions, carrots, meat, etc. It is this remarkable ability that allows the canine to focus on one particular scent – dismissing the unimportant ones – and follow the target smell to its source. Hiding drugs in coolers beneath piles of dead fish won’t fool a trained narc dog. Tracking dogs are also used to locate cadavers. These dogs can find human remains on land or in water. Any police dog can be trained to track, but the dog best suited for this job is the Bloodhound.
Bloodhounds are large, extremely affectionate dogs that will relentlessly follow a track. Some police-canine handlers prefer not to use Bloodhounds to track dangerous felons because the dogs are so friendly. It is not unusual to see a Bloodhound find a violent criminal and then attempt to lick or cuddle with the crook.
Any police dog can be cross-trained to serve other purposes but, many handlers prefer to use a dog for one specific purpose, except in the case of tracking and biting.
I’ve found bad guys tend to surrender a lot faster when they’re facing a snarling police dog whose bite is much worse than his bark.
Uniform shirts worn by police officers are not your normal off-the-rack clothing. Shirts like the one pictured above are normally made from a polyester, cotton, or wool blend. Sometimes, the material is treated with fire retardant. Some shirts have zippered fronts to prevent lost buttons during a scuffle with combative bad guys.
Department policy normally dictates when officers may switch from short sleeve shirts to the wintertime long sleeve shirts. The same is true in reverse and makes for some uncomfortable days if there’s an early, hot spring. Ties are always worn with long sleeve shirts, but not necessarily so with short sleeve uniform shirts. Military creases are permanently sewn into the material. The same is true with the two badge tabs over the left pocket. Badge tabs are two, tiny button hole-like openings used to accept the large pin on the back of the officer’s badge. This prevents poking multiple holes in the fabric when pinning on a badge day after day.
Name tags are worn over the right pocket and are held in place by two pins backed by push-type clasps similar to the backs of pierced ear rings. This works well until an officer gets into a scuffle with a suspect. A sharp blow to the chest almost always results in the pins being pushed through the clasps and into the officer’s skin. Another fault with the name tag clasps is that they’re always falling off. A quick fix is to use a pencil eraser as a backing.
Officers wear insignias on their collars to indicate their rank. The gold eagle on the collar pictured above denotes a chief of police. Some chiefs prefer to use three or four, gold general’s stars to indicate their status as the top ranking officer of their department. This is especially true in large departments when there are ranks between a chief and a major. A good example would be a department with a deputy chief. This ranking official, the second in command, would probably wear one less gold star than the chief of police.
Other insignias are:
Golden oak leaf – Major
Two parallel bars (nicknamed railroad tracks) – Captain
One bar – Lieutenant
Three stripes – Sergeant
Two stripes – Corporal
One stripe – Private
No insignia – Rookie status
Long horizontal stripes on the shirt sleeves indicate an officer’s length of service in five-year increments. An officer with three stripes on his sleeve has been a sworn police officer for at least fifteen years. Neckties clip on to prevent suspects from using them to choke an arresting officer during a struggle. Patches on the sleeve are sometimes designed by a chief or sheriff and normally indicate the city, town, or state where the officer has jurisdiction. Badges also display the name of the jurisdiction as well as the rank, if any, of the officer. The center of the badge is normally adorned with the state’s seal. Ranking (supervisory) officers normally wear gold badges while rank and file (line) officers wear silver badges. Detectives often wear gold badges.