K-9 police officers work together with their dogs to enforce laws and arrest defaulters. With only a few positions available in this field, an assignment to the canine unit is very desired among professionals in law enforcement.
K-9 police officers function in local, state, federal law enforcement, and also in the military. While many serve as police officers, other agencies that employ K-9 handlers are the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
K-9 Police Officer Duties & Responsibilities
Duties can differ greatly and are dependent on the area of specialization of the police department you’re employed in. The job needs you to carry out the job of a police officer, but with a trained dog while at it. Generic duties can include:
- You responding to calls for police, emergencies inclusive.
- Patrolling allocated areas with your trained dog.
- Issuing citations and arresting criminals.
- Examining crime scenes, discovering and safeguarding evidence
- Writing and filing reports.
- Testifying in court when needed.
- Training and controlling a K-9 dog.
A canine officer can use the dog at their disposal to enforce public order while on patrol. The primary duty of police dogs is to pursue and apprehend suspects that try to escape from officers. Dogs tend to be trained on exact skills like identifying narcotics or smuggled goods, performing search and rescue operations, detecting accelerants at arson scenes, or locating human remains.
The dog act as a proven deterrent to lawbreakers who may try to confront the officer. The officer is fully responsible for maintaining complete control of the dog at every time, as this is a root of potential liability.
K-9 Police Officer Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) didn’t separate the earnings of a canine officer in its police salary data. However, it did provide comprehensive information on police officer earnings:
- Average Annual Salary: $63,380 USD
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $106,090 USD
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $36,550 USD
Education, Training, & Certification
- Education: To apply for the position of a police officer, you must have a minimum of a high school degree or it’s equivalent, but some employers prefer a criminal justice bachelor’s degree.
- Police training: Once you’ve been accepted for training, you must successfully finish the mandated 12- to 14-week police academy course. A new officer must obtain two to three years of normal patrol experience before gaining eligibility to apply for any available openings in the K-9 unit.
- K-9 training: After an officer is appointed a dog there is an usually an intensive training process where both party completes agility and obedience work, search training, tracking and scouting exercises, bite work, protection exercises, simulated suspect apprehension scenarios, and tactical deployment exercises. Officer are also required to complete courseworks on canine behavior and first aid techniques.
K-9 Police Officer Skills & Competencies
To be accomplished in this role, you’ll generally require the following skills and qualities:
- Interpersonal skills: Public demonstrations are a crucial part of the K-9 unit’s activities, as those displays raises interest and support from the community and local media. Officers can visit schools, community groups, and other organizations to display their canine partner’s contribution to public safety.
- Mental and physical stamina: Handlers and their K-9 partners must be alert all through their shifts and must often be on their feet for long periods of time.
- Perceptiveness: K-9 officers ought to be able to sense telling signals and behaviors from their canine partners, as well as those of suspects.
- Communication skills: A paramount part of the job is revolves around communicating with citizens, other officers, and also with the dog that they’re partnered with.
- Respect for animals: The office ought to show respect and compassion toward the K-9 counterpart—after all, they are their partner.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of police officers, in general, will grow by 7% through 2026, and this is similar to the projected overall employment growth for all professions in the country. The contest for jobs working with canine units is expected to continue to be very sturdy, as there’s a limited number of opportunities available in this specialty area.
K-9 officers may be tasked with the responsibility of patrolling airports, harbors, and borders. They can also use their dogs to complete searches when needed in prisons, schools, or vehicles.
As with all jobs in law enforcement, the job can be physically very demanding, dangerous, and stress-inducing.
K-9 officers regularly work nights and weekends, and they’ve to be prepared to answer to emergency situations with little or no notice. Overtime is commonly paid.
The dog handler is responsible for the dog at every time, as the dog resides with the officer and family during off-hours.