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I’m currently working an extremely dangerous undercover assignment in a massive dog-fighting ring, but I’ve blown my cover to speak with you today about a very important subject—K-9 handlers.

Please feel free to call me “Dawg.” Not my real name, of course. But I’ll answer to it, especially if there’s a treat or my favorite toy in your hand.

I’ve risked exposing my true ID because, well, sometimes you guys, dog handlers and civilian pet owners, don’t use your heads. I’m not saying you’re stupid. Although, it’s no secret who’s on the “smart end” of the leash. The instructor at the state police academy who trained the guy writing this blog stressed that fact every single day for 16 weeks. “Your dog is on the smart end of the leash, troopers. Let the dog lead the way,” he’d say. That was one intelligent state police lieutenant.

He’s right, you don’t think before you act and it you thinking you know it all that causes us to look dumb. Let. Us. Do. Our. Jobs. We’re really good at what we do.

Another thing. Seriously, you think it’s okay to leave us in the car while you’re outside standing in the shade yucking it up with your buddies? We enjoy a good joke too. Besides, the grass feels wonderful on our feet. And don’t think I can’t smell the burgers and fries on your breath when you get back inside the bucket of bolts you so proudly call a police car. Nearly an hour inside Mickie D’s …. puhleeze …

And, remember that traffic stop last week? Yeah, you know the one. I know you only issued her a warning. But I’m not stupid. I get it. She batted her eyelashes at you and smelled like jasmine. What I don’t understand, though, is why you didn’t you introduce me to the poodle riding shotgun. You know I’m a sucker for curly hair. Life is not all about you and your shiny badge and big gun, you know.

Anyway, our union, Police Dogs 101, recently elected me to serve as official spokesdog, so I’m here today to address a few of our concerns in advance of the upcoming contract renewal. It wouldn’t hurt private citizens to pull up a chair and listen as well. So here goes, and I suggest you take notes.

1. We notice that you wear shoes to work every single day of your life. And we know why. Oh, boy, do we know why! Snow and ice are COLD. Concrete and asphalt are HOT. And, for goodness sake, would you walk barefoot over broken glass? Well, no one, including dogs, should be forced to walk on those surfaces. So take your narrow hips to the store and buy us some booties! They make and sell them every day. We don’t mind looking goofy if it means no frostbite, blisters, or cuts. Use your head, Sherlock.

2. We enjoy biting a bad guy as much as any dog, but our internal temperatures can skyrocket while tracking and searching on really hot days. That’s right, Ace, you try wearing a thick fur coat in the August sunshine. So keep one of those thermometer things in your pocket. No, we don’t enjoy it when you poke them into the place where the sun doesn’t shine, but it’s better than keeling over from heat exhaustion. We’d do it ourselves, but … no fingers, you know.

3. Another good idea, and goodness knows you’d never think of it, is to wet us down before a search on hot days. It helps keep us cool. But, please, not when the humidity is really high, because the water in those instances would only serve to hold the heat in.

4. Bring some water with you if the search is going to be a long one. We don’t like drinking from mud puddles and creeks. Do you know what’s been there? Well, we do, and it’s not exactly the most sanitary thing to do. Would you drink from something that turtles and frogs use as a toilet? I didn’t think so. And let’s not even think about all the mosquito larvae swimming and squirming around in those places. Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. Do us both a favor and bring some water, okay!

Speaking of water … how about changing the water in my bucket a few times during the day (the containerl in my kennel). You know me, I drool in it, and even sometimes step in it to cool my hot feet (and you know where my feet have been). Besides, I don’t like tasting the green slimy stuff that can build up in the bowl if the water sits for a long time.

5. If you do insist upon leaving me in the car while you’re off doing who knows what (probably biting someone behind my back), then please have the decency to leave the car and air conditioning running. Also, have the motor pool mechanics install an alarm that notifies you if either of the two malfunctions or shuts off. Remember, I don’t have fingers to operate the power locks and those window roller-downer-things.

6. Shade. I can’t stress this enough. We want our kennels placed in the shade. If your yard is treeless (heaven forbid) then march your butt down to the hardware store and purchase a roll or two of shade cloth to place over the top of our kennels. It’s an easy project. We’ll even help, if you want.  If so, merely place the roll near us and I promise we’ll have it unrolled and divided into bite-size pieces in no time flat. Now that’s what we call fun.

7. Speaking of fun … we demand a few hours of play time each day. You cannot expect us to work every minute. Throw something for us to retrieve. Hide something and let us find it. Let us roll around in the dirt, etc. Tug of war with a rope. Anything like that will suffice. Besides, it helps to keep us fit.

My friend Ralph (below), poor guy, has a handler who never allows him any exercise time at all. Take a good look, because you’ve been a bit slack lately and I’m now about five tennis ball throws away from looking like him.

K-9 Ralph

 

8. And whatever you do, please don’t forget to tell us what a great job we’re doing. We absolutely adore praise for a job well done. Also, a little loving goes a long way.

Don’t go getting all mushy on me, though. A pat on the head and back and an occasional hug is all we’re asking. You can save the kisses for your spouses. Besides, you have more germs in your mouth than I do, and I’ve been known to chew on some pretty nasty stuff.

Okay, that’s it for now. We look forward to your response in advance of our next meeting.

By the way, if you happen to see that poodle again, tell her to give me a call.

 

 

Police officers in large cities become highly specialized in their areas of expertise. Patrol officers there are often assigned to section of the city, a precinct, and they know that area like the back of their hand.  They’re on a first name basis with every drug dealer, hooker, and numbers runner. Detectives in those areas are normally assigned to a particular duty, such as homicide investigations, narcotics cases, and cyber crimes. There are full-time units in place to handle CSI, cold cases, SWAT, canines, bicycle patrol, and community policing, to name just a few.

However, in less-populated jurisdictions—mid-size to small—where manpower and funding are precious commodities, officers sometimes have to serve double, or even triple duty. They wear many hats.

Patrol officers everywhere are the front line defense against crime. They’re the men and women who answer the never-ending stream of calls, ranging from homicides to people who think aliens have just landed in their back yard.

In small agencies, though, a patrol officer may also be a member of the SWAT team. That officer would probably keep his/her SWAT gear in the trunk of their patrol car, ready to suit-up in a flash. They may also serve as a member of the high-risk entry team, or as a bike patrol officer, swapping a cruiser for a bicycle to finish out the remainder of their shift.

Some detectives also serve as members of scuba dive teams. Many do their own evidence collection and crime scene photography. There are no CSI units in many, many departments across the country. In fact, many departments don’t have detectives. Patrol officers in those departments investigate criminal cases from beginning to end. Needless to say, this stretches manpower to the breaking point.

In even smaller police departments, where there are three or four officers (maybe the chief is the only officer) duties may branch out further still. For example, a tiny town of a few hundred citizens may expect their officer(s) to read the town water meters as part of their regular patrol. Yes, I do know of a town where this system was and may still be in place.

Another town police chief has an office inside a country store. His “office” is actually nothing more than a metal desk positioned in the corner near the lottery ticket machine, and the town’s highest ranking law enforcement officer only has access to his work space during the store’s normal business hours. He is also required to handle the town’s animal control duties. Once each week, this town’s top and only cop swaps his patrol car for a pickup truck and utility trailer so that he can collect the garbage set out on the curbs by the town’s residents.

So if you’re ever worried that your story seems a little off where police procedures are concerned, well, fear not because the truth about law enforcement is much more farfetched. In fact, the only thing consistent about police work is its inconsistencies.

To Preserve and Collect

To Protect and Collect

Thursday at the Writers’ Police Academy promises to be an exciting and wildly fun opening day, starting with renowned drone expert Bill Bongle’s fascinating presentation on … all things drones. Bill will discuss (and demonstrate):

  • Drone basics and the fundamentals of unmanned flight
  • Overview of current technology, capabilities, emerging technologies and trends
  • Brief overview of drone laws and regulations
  • Case studies of high profile incidents involving drones and how these cases are shaping the regulatory environment
  • Privacy issues and case law regarding surveillance from the air
  • Practical applications for village/municipal government, police, fire, rescue and emergency government
  • The emergence of civilian Search and Rescue Groups

Next up is the Kooky Cop Carnival, an event that will surely leave attendees with a better knowledge and understanding of the special challenges officers face daily.

Run, don’t walk, to the Kooky Cop Carnival!

You know, things like (we are not explaining this stuff prior to the event because we want you to experience the surprises officers encounter when responding to calls):

–  Setting a live trap

–  Handcuffing Cuff Man (and he really doesn’t want you to apply those pesky cuffs)

–  Using a “Come-a-long around a stuffed K-9

 

–  Interesting “Duty Belt Techniques”

–  Animal Control

–  21-Foot-Drill

–  Drawing (from the holster) and firing the SIRT gun

–  Drug ID (test your knowledge of common street drugs, and more).

–  Animal ID – Identify the types of animals officers often encounter

And much, much more, including lots of surprises. This hands-on Kooky Cop Carnival is going to be a real hoot!

Immediately following the carnival is sign-in/registration (4-5:30 p.m.), and then comes the laugh-fest we call orientation. Sure, we spill details such as classroom numbers, where restrooms are located, what to expect in each session, what time the pool closes, schedule changes and updates (if any), etc., but this is the time when you should be prepared to let down your hair and enjoy the laughs … and the much-needed information, of course.

6:30 p.m. marks the official opening of the event, and this I believe is a first for any writers conference anywhere—the blessing of the Writers’ Police Academy/Opening Ceremonies. This spectacular ceremony is presented by the Oneida Tribal Dancers, elders, Miss Oneida, and more. Please do feel free to photograph and/or record video (this ceremony is only time during the weekend when video recording is permitted). Remember, the WPA takes place on the Oneida Indian Reservation. Our event hotel is also situated on tribal land.

To wrap up day one of the 2017 WPA, the star of the Thursday night festivities … Thomas B. Sawyer,  head writer/showrunner of the hit TV show Murder, She Wrote.

Thomas B. Sawyer


Thursday night at 8:30 p.m., Tom presents …

“How Jessica Fletcher and Murder, She Wrote Made Homicide Fun – Without Science, Crazy People, or Gore.”

In this entertaining and informative session, one of this classic 12-year TV series’ original group of writers, Tom Sawyer, lays out the early history of Murder, She Wrote, from the casting of its star and its subsequent effect on one of Broadway’s megahit Musicals, to Dashiell Hammett’s influence on the show, the show’s influence on Tom’s career both as Showrunner/writer, and – inadvertently – as a lyricist – and much, much more.


Tom also returns to the spotlight twice during the weekend.


Friday at 12:45 p.m.

CINEMATIC WRITING TECHNIQUES THAT WILL MAKE YOU A BETTER STORYTELLER ~ Tom Sawyer

THINK Picture/THINK Action/THINK Dialogue

An Approach to Both Screen-and-Narrative Writing

Techniques I learned in TV & Film. From that Super-Critical Opening Grabber, to creating enigmatic bad guys, to “writing to the money,” and more – stuff every writer should have in the bank.


Saturday at 12:45 p.m.

PACKAGING YOUR BABY FOR HOLLYWOOD

How to write loglines, Movie treatments, synopses and TV series pitches with the Sizzle that’ll convince them they’ve got to seriously consider putting your novel, story or concept on the screen.


Just think, this only the first day, BEFORE the actual event begins!! So, are you ready for an extremely thrilling and fun weekend? Yes, we still have a few spots left open. Hurry!

Writers’ Police Academy

By the way, we’ll soon be announcing details regarding how you can have a chance to get your hands on a Murder, She Wrote script signed by Tom Sawyer!

Here’s a list of 6 important very real details that should/could be of interest to writers who want to go the extra mile when delivering believable make-believe.

  1. North Korea has launched a malicious cyber activity known as Hidden Cobra. According to Homeland Security and the FBI (this information comes via legitimate outlets, not through a web of anonymous and unnamed sources and leakers), Hidden Cobra works by capturing sensitive information, and by disrupting day-to-day operations. The Department of Homeland Security urges everyone, especially organizations of sensitive natures (banks, law enforcement, etc.) to upgrade to the latest editions of Adobe Flash Player, Hangul Word Processor, and Silverlight, and to review and block all IP addresses listed in the “indicators of compromise” list they provide. For full details, please visit the DHS site here, or the Hidden Cobra link above.
  2. Rapid DNA has been successfully tested in matching families with victims in mass casualties. The process greatly reduces the time it takes to (per the DHS) “reunify families and mass-casualty victims.”

Here’s a fairly recent video of Sen. Hatch questioning AG Sessions about the importance of Rapid DNA use in law enforcement and the need to approve it’s use.

3. The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, along with ILC Dover and West Virginia University helped develop the Resilient Tunnel Plug. This gigantic balloon-like inflatable device is designed to prevent flooding and chemical and gas attacks to a various tunnels, such as railway and automotive passageways. It’s sort of like a puffer fish in that when danger is sensed, the plug, like the puffer fish, inflates to ward off the trouble. When deployed (automatically or manually), the plug  falls from it’s storage compartment and inflates until it snugly fills and seals the tunnel opening. I understand that until the device is approved and in place and ready to work, puffer fish volunteers, among other portly swimming future-filets, are on the way to major waterside cities to assume the roles of temporary tunnel-pluggers.

4. Cell-site simulators—IMSI-catchers—are used by law enforcement, and others (bad guys), for the purpose of capturing cellphone conversations, pinpointing the exact location of a targeted phone, and even for the distribution of spam. The use of these devices by criminals has become more prevalent and, as a result, researchers at the University of Washington developed Sea Glass, a system designed to detect unusual activity in the cellular landscape. In other words, Sea Glass knows when it’s near an IMSI-catcher and it signals to its user when they’re close to one.

During a lengthy testing period in two major U.S. cities, 15 ride-share vehicles were equipped with Sea glass devices. The results indicated a pattern consistent with activity of several ISMI-catchers (also called Stargazers, among a few other names) positioned within the cities.

5. REDDI is the Department of Homeland Security’s latest program for training explosive detection K-9s. The purpose of this new training—to expose K-9 teams to current real-world conditions—is to further enhance the dogs’ ability to detect the presence of bombs/explosives. As you can see (right), the animals selected for the program are extremely smart, fearless, and well-schooled.

6. The Office of Naval Research awarded Dr. Nitin Agarwal a $1,530,778 grant to study sources of false information on the Internet and how it’s spread through social media. The study will also focus on how people and groups use this faux information to conduct cyber propaganda campaigns. Dr. Agarwal is the chair and a professor of information science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

I can easily see things quite a ways in the distance. As Louis Armstrong sang in one of my all time favorite songs, What a Wonderful World

“I see trees of green,
red roses too.
I see them bloom,
for me and you.
And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world.”

I, like other humans, am able to easily see things at a distance of … say, 1/3 of a mile or so. If we were switch that “seeing distance” to that of using our noses to detects scents at an equal distance, well, dogs would be able to detect the same scents, and more, at a distance of a whopping 3,000 miles away. That’s how much more acute a dog’s sense of smell is compared to ours.

Let that sink in for a second. If our noses were able to smell at distances equal to how far we can see, and humans smell a steak sitting on a platter that’s positioned 1/3 of a mile away. A dog has the built-in ability to smell that same steak placed in a location that 3,000 miles in the distance.

Okay, we agree. A dog’s nose is a dog’s superpower. In fact, it’s so powerful that a dog could, if it desired to do so, detect a single spoonful of sugar in a million gallons of water (two Olympic-size pools).

As a former K-9 handler, tales (pun intended) of amazing sniffers fascinate me. For example, the dog who detected 35 pounds of marijuana wrapped in watertight material and submerged in a car’s gas tank that was filled to the brim with gasoline. Another dog, a cancer-sniffing dog insisted on melanoma in a spot on a patient’s skin that doctors had pronounced as cancer-free. Finally, after more testing (because the dog insisted), a biopsy confirmed melanoma in a small fraction of the cells. This SuperDog, of course, dropped the mic and left the building.

So, in the field, how do dogs use that extraordinary group of sensors to zero-in on their targets (narcotics for drug-detection dogs, explosive for bomb dogs, etc.).

This is where Scent Cones come into play. Before we dive in completely, first remember that the best conditions for a dog to search (outdoors) is when the temperatures are cool, but rising slightly, a bit of humidity, and little or no wind. Wind is not a friend, but doesn’t stop the dogs from getting the job done. It does, however, alter the direction of the scent cone.

A scent cone is simply an imaginary cone-shaped area that begins at the source of the odor/scent (a body, drugs, a firearm, explosives, etc.).

The handler ideally starts the dog in a position that’s downwind from the area to be searched. If the area is hilly and the temperatures are hot, the dog should start in an elevated position since the air (scents) will be rising.

Once in position, the dog heads toward the scent, criss-crossing its way back and forth through the scent cone. I know, clear as mud, right? Let me see if I can find that sketch … Okay, I have it and I’ll tape here so you can see it while I describe what you’re seeing.

Okay, the dog starts its search at the wide end of the scent cone (to the right in the image above). The cone represents the space the scent travels along the breeze/air. It’s strongest in the center, but gradually fades the further you move away from the middle of the cone.

Therefore, when we see the dogs running back back and forth, what they’re actually doing is running until they no longer smell their target. When that happens they make a U-turn and run in the opposite direction until they no longer smell it in that direction. Then they once again turn and go in the opposite direction until they scent is no longer detected. They continue this pattern all while moving closer and closer to the scent. As they move toward the scent as it grows stronger.

Finally, they reach their target and the handler gives them their toy as a reward for doing a fantastic job. The toy, after all, is what they’re after. Not a dead body or a package of cocaine. Finding the target of their search is merely the means they use to get to their beloved toy and a bit of fun time with their handler. Believe me, these dogs are full of energy and they love to run and play and jump and … well, they love being dogs, and that’s part of what keeps them in such great shape, physically.

Remember, scent cones move with the breezes, heat, cool, etc. Dogs know where to go and what to do. If mistakes are made, they’re made by handlers who think they know more than their dogs. We don’t. As my instructor at the Virginia State Police Academy used to tell us, “The dogs are on the smart end of the leashes, not you. Stop trying to think and trust your dogs!” Then we’d run a zillion miles. It was his gentle method of helping those words sink in. See, Lieutenant, it worked. I still remember!