Training with the Tucson Police K-9 unit
Training with the Tucson Police K-9 unit Video by kgun9.comvideo
Sgt Puglia talks with KGUN9 about the canine unit.
The unit consists of 10 working dogs paired up with 1 supervisor and 9 handlers.
A canine locates a suspect (left) hiding in a closet.
An officer wearing a "bite suit" allows the dogs to take-down a mock suspect.
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - On the front lines in the war against crime, the Tucson Police Department's elite canine unit assists patrol officers every day tracking suspects and locating drugs.
The unit is comprised of 1 supervisor and nine officers paired up with 10 dogs; seven German shepherds, two Belgian malinois, and one Dutch shepherd. The dogs are dual purpose and used to track persons and either narcotics or explosives.
Unlike other units on the force, animal instinct and the sense of smell help patrol officers combat crime. "Their job is to increase the effectiveness of the patrol officers and take the risk away from them as much as possible" said Sgt. J. Puglia with the Tucson Police Department.
Canine handlers and their dogs form a bond from the day they begin training together. As a team they are essential to fighting crime in the City of Tucson. KGUN9 On Your Side tagged along during one of the training nights at the Tucson Police Department academy.
"The dogs don't find the drugs they find the odor that the narcotics are putting out and what we do is we do everything on a toy-based reward system." said Sgt. Puglia. Training can include building searches, looking for drugs in vehicles or buildings, and checking buildings for suspects who are hiding. Dogs will signal they have found something by sitting, called a passive alert, or they will scratch and bark near the source, called a aggressive alert.
Officer Kendrick describes one of the scenarios used to train the canines in which an officer simulates a situation in which the dog may be used. "(the) decoy is going to act like he is breaking into this locker and I'm going to challenge him with the dog, he's not going to comply and take off then I'm going to let the dog go so the dog will do a take down with a muzzle"
Each canine goes home with his handler and is treated as a member of the family. Canine teams are on-call 24/7 and may be called out to assist if another dog team is not available. Like any other dog they love attention and their toys, something many dog owners can relate to the bond they share with their animals. The relationship with the handler and the canine is different, it goes above the call of duty.
Sgt. Puglia explains; "it's the greatest job in the department in my opinion. You get to to go out, work with a dog and train a dog every night. We are proud of our dogs. The ultimate reward we get is patrol where we look for someone and now we have taken a bad person of the street"