About the Unit
The Sacramento Police Department K9 Unit is currently made up of eight officers and one sergeant and their canine partners. The K9 Unit is an enhanced support function for the Patrol Division and other departmental units, such as SWAT, the Career Criminal Apprehension Unit, Parole Intervention Team, and Investigations. The K9 Unit's primary functions are to respond to calls of incidents with armed or dangerous suspects, in-progress felonies such as robberies and burglaries, searches for concealed or fleeing suspects, searches for articles or evidence including narcotics and explosives, patrolling parks and conducting public demonstrations. The canines utilize their indispensable abilities of smell, sight, speed, and agility in the performance of these functions. The police canines are a tremendous asset to the department and community and are often referred to as a force multiplier. They can do the work of a team of officers in half the time. Their presence alone on a violent crime call, a felony vehicle stop, or when contacting a group of gang members can gain the compliance of multiple suspects or convince the smarter suspects who are hiding or fleeing to surrender. The use of canines is imperative in the fight against crime and provides protection for officers and the community. When K9 officers are not responding to calls, they patrol the business, residential areas and parks of the City in an effort to deter and detect crime. K9 officers and their partners also conduct on average a hundred demonstrations at community events and schools.
Before an officer is chosen to be a canine handler, the officer goes through a testing process. The officer must show a unique dedication toward the department and canine unit. While the department does provide a kennel, the handler must have accommodations at home for their new partner to even be considered for the position. Our dogs all go home with their handler at the end of their shift and really become a family pet when they aren’t at work. After the new canine officer is chosen, the search begins for his/her new partner. The primary breeds used in police work are German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois. Currently, our K9 Unit consists of eight German Shepherds and one Dutch Shepherd. We have traveled to police dog vendors as far as North Carolina in search of a top quality police dog. The dogs are mostly imported from Europe and brought back to the states by these vendors. When we selected three new handlers in 2006, we tested 140 dogs over three months just to find 3 dogs that passed our stringent selection process. We usually test dogs that are between a year to two years old so they are physically and mentally more mature. We test the dog for courage, environmental issues such as slick or grated floors, how they behave around gunfire, and their sociability. Our dogs are all friendly (when not in pursuit of the bad guy) and they have to be, because we bring them home to our spouses and kids and conduct over 100 community demonstrations a year mostly to children.
Once the dog has been chosen, the handler and dog go through a three to four month basic K9 training program with our department trainer, Steve Brewer, who is a retired Sacramento Police canine handler/trainer and the owner of Law Dogs. During the training program, the handler and his partner bond and train together in obedience, agility, protection work, control work, suspect searching, article/evidence searching, tracking and narcotics or explosives detection. To graduate and start working the streets together, the handler and dog must pass a California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification test administered by a POST evaluator. Training doesn’t stop there; POST requires K9 teams to train a minimum of 16 to 20 hours a month. Our K9 handlers train a little every day on their own and as a unit with our trainer every Wednesday night for four hours. The K9 unit does have a small agility/obstacle course at our Communications Center, but our main training facility is the Sacramento Regional Public Safety K9 Training Facility at the Sacramento Police Academy in McClellan. We often conduct search training at businesses that allow us to use their facility when they have closed for the day or in residential neighborhoods where a group of neighbors have gotten together to allow us to use their yards along a street or in a court for training. This gives the handlers and dogs realistic and different environments to train in. Our handlers also compete in a series of police K9 competitions through out the year. These competitions are open to the public and great for the family and listed on our website.
The handler and dog will work together until the dog is ready to retire. Our dogs work the streets for as long as they are healthy and physically capable to do the job. Since they are working dogs, most of our dogs retire between the ages of 9 to 10 years old. The department allows the handler to purchase the dog for $1 as long as they have worked together for 5 years. The handler will have to pay more based on a depreciation formula if they worked less than 5 years, unless the dog was injured on duty and/or determined by our veterinarian not capable of returning to duty. After retirement, the police dog becomes the handler’s full time family pet. The Sacramento Police Canine Association assists with the expenses of our retired dogs, including veterinary care, food and eventually, burial expenses.
The specific purpose of the Sacramento Police Canine Association is to educate and promote the use of police service dogs in the community, perform canine demonstrations for schools and community groups, provide additional training and equipment for police service dogs and their handlers, assist in the care of retired police dogs, and furnish benefits to all police canines. The Sacramento Police Canine Association is operated exclusively for charitable purposes in the meaning of section 501 (c)(3) IRC.