Taking a Bite Out of Crime

By Sandra Zunino

For a police officer out on patrol, communication with a partner is crucial… especially when that partner is the four-legged kind. Dedicated to facilitating and maintaining officer-canine communication, The Eastern Shore Police K-9 Training Group is hosting the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) 2011 National Workshop this June.

Formed in 2005 and organized by Cpl. Mark J. Carr, NREMT-P, K-9 Supervisor/Trainer of the Queen Anne’s  County  Sheriff ‘s Office, Eastern Shore Police K-9 is a group of K-9 teams from the QAC, Kent County and Caroline County Sheriff’s offices, and the Centreville Town, Rock Hall, Chestertown, Federalsburg and Dorchester County Police Departments. Its mission is to provide Upper Shore citizens protection with the best “Street Worthy” police canines possible through ongoing training.

A police canine’s myriad of duties include building and area searches for fleeing or hiding felons, searching for and uncovering lost or discarded evidence, tracking felons or lost persons across soft terrain like grass or hard surfaces such as concrete and pavement, explosive and narcotics detection and even cadaver search and rescue. Usually weighing more than 70 pounds with a bite force of 238 pounds, police canines offer powerful protection for the officers against aggressive suspects. Dogs can even be deployed out of helicopters.

Belgian Malinois, German and Dutch Sheppards and sometimes Rottweilers are breeds typically used by police. While selective breeding, intelligence, loyalty and innate talent are the elements that comprise a police work dog, intense training of the dog/handler teams is critical for harnessing their abilities for the greater good.

Supplied by a vendor in Pennsylvania, dogs are chosen based on the trainer’s evaluation for the specific job. The dog then goes to the handler and the new alliance begins an intense 16-hour-day, four-week training program. In addition to the initial training, teams from each department put in 16 hours of reinforcement training every month.

All Eastern Shore Police K-9 teams maintain a NAPWDA certification. One of the largest K-9 organizations in the country, NAPWDA is one of only four organizations recognized by the Federal Courts as having an acceptable standard for Police Canine Team Certification.

Each year the NAPWDA holds a national workshop where K-9 teams from the U.S., Canada and other countries gather for meetings, training, fieldwork and public demonstrations. Slated to take place at Kent Island High School and surrounding Stevensville farms from June 18 through 24, between trainers, more than 200 K-9 teams and their families, the event is projected to bring an estimated 400 people to the county, possibly generating $250,000 for local businesses. No small undertaking, the Eastern Shore Police K-9 group developed a non-profit fund to supplement the cost an have been holding fundraiser the past two years.

For the next fundraiser, the QAC Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit and Eastern Shore Police K-9 will be hosting the 2nd Annual Police K-9 Chase 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run on May 7 starting at 8:00 a.m. Open to any dog-human pair, the fee is $25 for advanced registration and $30 the day of the event. Dogs must be leashed and have proof of rabies vaccination.

For more information about Eastern Shore Police K-9, visit www.easternshorepolicek9.org. For information about the NAPWDA, visit www.napwda.com. To register in advance for the 2nd Annual Police K-9 Chase 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run, go to http://www.active.com/event_detail.cfm?event_id=1932399.