Question to the Leagle Beagle: Should a handler allow the police dog to bark loudly when they are giving their verbal announcement prior to a search for a suspect?
I was reading some depositions that were left in my kennel the other day about a case where the suspect (now known as the Plaintiff) claimed that no verbal announcements were given to him before the police dog was sent to search for him and subsequently bit him. The suspect admitted to hiding from the police and knew the police were probably looking for someone bad and were probably going to find him eventually. He also thought that a police dog would be coming to look for him just before he was bit. He didn’t think he had done anything wrong so he decided to take his chances and not give up. But, he also was adamant that he did not hear any verbal announcements from the K9 handler or anyone else prior to the release of the dog.
Now, as I continued reading, I formed the opinion that this suspect wasn’t being truthful (surprise!) and I think announcements were given. However, when being questioned about giving announcements, the handler said in the deposition something similar to “My dog’s usually barking when I make my announcements so the suspects know the dog is about to be deployed.” What?!?!? Serious?!?! Suspects can recognize the bark of a police dog versus others? They know the bark translates into an announcement that includes potential consequences for not surrendering – like a bite? Give me a break while I visit the nearest fire hydrant.
In case you don’t know, if a suspect can’t hear your announcements because it’s not clearly audible, then the announcement doesn’t legitimately exist. If a suspect can only hear a dog barking, how does the suspect know he is being given the opportunity to surrender before harm comes prowling his way. If your hound is barking so loud that your offer for surrender cannot be heard, you are wasting your breath with your announcement. And, I think the courts might agree. Case law says you must give a “clearly audible” announcement and some exceptions exist. If it’s not clearly audible – is it legal?
I’ve seen it and heard it more times than I can care to remember and can’t possibly count the number of times I’ve watched and listened to handlers give their announcements while their dog is barking so loudly and out of control that suspects and decoys have been unable to hear the words. And, in training scenarios, I love it when the decoy later says to the handler after he’s been bitten “I would have given up if only I heard you ask.” (In the real world that situation might equate to a law$uit.)
Some handlers think it sounds cool when their dog barks loudly and uncontrollably during the announcements. It’s not cool – it’s classified as “lack of control.” Some handlers use the announcement as a means to jack up their hound prior to deployment. Is that really necessary for a well-trained police dog? Some handlers don’t care if the suspect has a chance to hear the announcement and surrender. They might think differently if they get sued.
I guess you can always say that you “officially” gave an announcement while your dog barks, even if the suspect can’t hear it, but it’s not the right thing to do. It’s a policy issue that should be addressed. If you are not giving an announcement that can be heard, you are probably in violation of your agency policy. It’s a training issue that should be addressed. Teach your mutt to shut up when you’re speaking and then it can bark after the announcement on command if you want to reinforce the presence of the dog. It’s a deployment issue that should be addressed. If you can’t control your dog, remove it from the deployment point and then give your announcement or have someone else give it.
I read a recommendation for a policy recently that went something like this; “The handler should allow a reasonable time for a suspect to surrender after a warning. The handler should ensure the canine is quiet during the warning and afterward to allow the handler to listen for any verbal response to the warning from a suspect or other person.”
Don’t be foolish….be smart. Make sure the suspect can hear you and make sure you give ’em the chance to walk out. You don’t want to sit in front of jury and say how important it is to give announcements and then say something stupid like “My dog’s usually barking when I make my announcements so the suspects know the dog is about to be deployed.”
I’m going outside and howl at the moon like most beagles love to do…..
This “reason” by the Leagle Beagle was originally shared on June 29, 2016 and updated on May 6, 2021.
Important Disclaimer: The Leagle Beagle is not an attorney, a paraleagle nor a law clerk; the Leagle Beagle is a fictionalized dog. Dogs are not licensed to practice law but all dogs should be licensed according to the law. Most of the information posted herein has real-world relevance in the form of limited parody, lawful applicability and/or may possibly provide a catalyst for some good thought-provoking discussions in the station parking lot, handlers’ meeting, or on the training field.
“Trouble” isn’t always related to incidents or predicaments that directly result in lawsuits, claims or discipline. Often times, our actions or inactions that are missed, deliberately overlooked or downplayed may lead to nothing or can later lead to mistakes or bad incidents with minimal to serious repercussions. A reason we get in trouble can be minor or simple at first glance – or even serious – but a combination of these factors can often have disastrous consequences.
These “reasons” are provided periodically as a collection in-progress based on actual incidents and real attitudes as well as feedback received at HITS, the CNCA Training Institute, and the “Canine Liability 360” classes. As Gordon Graham says, “We haven’t found new ways to get in trouble.” So, as the list progresses, you may or may not read something familiar to you that you have personally experienced or seen others encounter. If you encountered or heard about it, did you learn from it?