Building Search Part IV
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Suspect Building Search

Part Four - Liability

By SMI Aycock


At this stage in training, you should feel complete and satisfied that your dog will work at a street level, suspect encounter for most all building searches. But in the unlikely event that you feel a bit uneasy in some areas - simply go back and spend a little more time on the earlier stages. Chances are, should you need further training, you may have rushed a little.

Now it’s time to hit the road…but first, we have to discuss the seriousness of building searches, policy, and liability - never forget the liability.

Building searches for criminal suspects are the most highly rated, dangerous situations for both the dog team and the persons inside the building. Thus, it is important to understand a few principles for this danger.

1) When the dog is trained to complete building searches, he or she is taught that there WILL be a suspect inside. This is important for the dog’s ability to always be on tap, expect the unexpected, and remain confident. However, because the dog expects there to be a suspect inside - EVERY building, a worker, janitor, customer, or other innocent person could run the risk of being caught in a rather challenging situation when the dog keys on him or her - maybe even biting. Handlers have to be aware that there may be persons other than the suspect inside the building.

2) Backup officers run the risk of occasionally being separated away from the handler, which means that the dog sees them as different from the group. When this happens - the dog usually will run up to the officer, take a long, hearty whiff, and determine that this is a good guy. But it can and does happen that the dog may not wait to determine if the officer is good or bad. In that case, the officer gets bit.

Handlers should always be aware of the above listed dangers. Once recognized, safety is a matter of making normal routine policy and procedure that prevents such accidents from occurring. Here they are…

1) The handler always has a safety briefing with backup officers prior to conducting ANY search. This practice includes training exercises where backup will be present. In addition, the handler should set up specific training whereby the backup officers stray from the handler so that the dog must pass them to continue his search. During this practice exercise, it is crucial that the handler be aware of the location of all backup and keep the dog under verbal control, in effort to prevent accidents. REMEMBER this is for training - to teach the dog to be better able to recognize officers and distinguish them from the bad guy.

2) Handlers should always make it a policy of announcing the K9 entry into a building. Unfortunately, I see far to often bad examples of this because the handler becomes complacent in training. But training teaches us how to do it live - bad training makes for bad performance.


Sheriff’s department…come out or I’ll send in the dog…


Ward County Sheriff’s department police K9 unit…Anyone in the building should head to the sound of my voice or call out to me…K9 will bite if he locates you in the building…(wait 2 minutes and listen carefully) (REPEAT)…

Announcements should be made upon entry to every floor, through multiple doors, and in areas where machinery or noises could have prevented the innocent from hearing the handler.

3) In situations where a suspect is KNOWN to be armed and dangerous, the K9 team may weaken officer safety by making announcements. In these HIGH RISK situations - it is feasible that the handler may want to conduct the building search completely unannounced to prevent the suspect from targeting the dog or officers. This is accepted as a safety practice for serious threats. However, the handler will still be held responsible in the event that the dog bites an innocent person. Thus, I strongly recommend that during these situations, the handler keep the dog either on lead or in close proximity during the search - to prevent accidents.

One last note…

There are millions of people who have difficulty hearing or are clinically deaf. As handlers, you must account for these individuals in you searches. These folks cannot hear you announce - maybe even if you are in the same room as they are - so keep this in mind while working buildings. A practice I have often found helpful is to make certain that (seriously dangerous suspects aside) anyone in the building knows that there is law enforcement outside. This can be accomplished best with bar lights, spotlights, sirens, and air-horns. I don’t think there are too many innocent people who would stay inside a house or building after noticing see several police cars outside, packing weapons, and flashing lights all around. Most people will want to find out what’s going on.

Well that’s it. You should be well trained, educated and ready to do what we do best - capture the criminals that make life difficult for so many.

And always remember that I am only an email or phone call away.

See you next session…on the training field.


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