One of the more interesting and unfortunate dilemmas that occur within police work is the patrol-related assignment of a K9 handler to a designated beat or district assignment as a patrol officer. You might even be one.
Are you a K9 handler or a patrol officer working with a police dog?
As I look at the potential for civil liability, one of the things most concerning to me is the fact that “officers” are being assigned a police dog with little regard for the assignment of the handler and the utilization of the police dog to best serve the community and the police department – and limit liability. The primary duties of these officers and deputies do not involve a police dog.
Regarding liability, the majority of mistakes that get handlers into trouble usually involve poor decision making, lack of training and a lack of confidence in the ability of the K9 team because of limited experiences. When a K9 handler is assigned other duties and “K9” is not the primary function, the handler does not have the opportunity to practice his/her craft regularly and their work performance is often impacted. K9 training is often cancelled because “K9” isn’t really the primary function and it is not prioritized.
When handlers are not provided with opportunities to experience more real-world and training situations related to decision making with respect to K9 deployments, they are being limited and often restricted to improve their performance and make proper decisions. I liken this situation to a second-string quarterback who receives limited snaps during practice and then he is placed into the big game without warning – he has the potential to achieve and be successful, but his limited experience in practice and real game situations will most often negatively affect his initial decision making and mechanical skills.
In police work, we do not often get second chances in big game situations.
There is a challenge in being a K9 handler assigned as a patrol officer with a police dog. You will probably need to work harder to maintain your level of proficiency as a K9 team and that might even mean volunteering some of your own time to achieve the results desired. If you can’t maintain an acceptable level of proficiency and the ongoing risks for failure continually exist, you might consider your options and seek assistance to improve your situation.
I wrote a more thorough article on this topic that is now posted in the “Articles” section on my web site.
Take care, be safe and make every day a training day…
Bill Lewis II
This “Reason” was originally shared on October 14, 2013.