“What’s our policy?”

If you are a K9 handler who needs to ask “What’s our policy?” because you are not really certain about your agency’s K9 policy articulating the circumstances for when you can deploy your police dog or you really don’t know, you are heading for trouble.

I know those of you who are squared away will think I’m just joking around with you and you might (wrongly) assume all handlers should be able to recite verbatim (or reasonably close to it) their policy or guidelines for deploying their police dogs.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case – and as I mention at the end of these posts, these reasons I share are based on actual incidents – and I recently encountered some (disappointing) situations that prompted me to write and post this one.

When can you deploy your police dog?  Under what circumstances can you deploy your police dog? What factors do you consider before you make the decision to deploy or not deploy your police dog? Must a crime be committed?  Can you only deploy on felony suspects or violent misdemeanants?  Generally, most handlers can easily recite their K9 policy regarding the factors to be considered and in most cases it is consistent with the four prongs of Graham v. Connor.

My message is brief and simple – know your policy.  Study your policy.  Understand your policy.  Be confident and able to clearly articulate your policy.  Practice your response as if sitting in the witness chair. If you are unclear about your policy and fail to make an effort to know it, it could be a reason you get in trouble.

Take care, be safe, and know your K9 policy….

Bill Lewis II

This “reason” was first posted on April 6, 2021.

“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?