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May 11, 2004 > K-9, A Unit of Trust

K-9, A Unit of Trust

by Arathi Satish

Dogs are amazingly competent creatures with endearing and even heroic qualities. Properly trained, dogs have helped find missing persons, protect humans from harm, save lives and provided unswerving loyalty and companionship.

The US Army recognized the value of well-trained canines, establishing a "K-9 Corps" in 1942 to provide scout dogs for the armed forces. German Shepherds were the breed of choice due to their working ability, temperament, size and adaptability to many climates. Scout dogs were used during patrols in Korea and Vietnam to detect an enemy presence and Sentry dogs protected their posts by barking to alert others of unfamiliar sights, sounds and scents. War dogs served in relaying messages between otherwise isolated units and casualty dogs helped located wounded soldiers on battlefields. The continuous use of dogs in the military underscores their importance to battlefield troops.

Civilian dogs are working hard too. Often valued family members, some use their unique skills to aid in searches for missing or lost people, assist people with disabilities and provide "emotional therapy" by just being themselves in nursing homes, hospitals and schools.

One of the most powerful tools police use to fight crime are K-9 units, partnerships between a police officer and a highly trained dog. The presence of a canine unit has a tremendous psychological and practical value while on routine patrol, during investigations and when necessary to suppress crimes in progress. The use of dogs augments human police officers with strength, speed, tenacity and heightened sense of smell and hearing. A uniformed officer and a trained police dog make a powerful unit. As in any other partnership, each partner, handler and canine, must each have supreme trust in the other to perform well.

Each of the Tri-Cities has developed K-9 units as a valuable resource for the community. Officers assigned to the K- 9 duty not only work with their partners, but live with them as well. The Western States Police Canine Association sanctions competitions between teams to test skills including: "search" using the dog's power of scent; "obedience" to test reactions to handler commands; "agility" and "Call Off" responding to commands when a suspect is under control. Officers (and suspects too) will readily agree that it is easier to call off a dog than recall a bullet!

Several years ago, a local K-9 competition called "Bite by The Bay" was held in Newark as a test of local units as well as those from throughout the state. Although Bite by The Bay has not been held recently, competitions and "Training Days" are currently scheduled throughout the year at various locations. If interested, look at the Western States Police Canine Association's website at for more information.

A close encounter and demonstration of a local K-9 unit will be held at the Newark Police Department Open House, held on Saturday, May 15, 2004 from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. in recognition of National Police Appreciation Week. This is an opportunity watch demonstrations by the SWAT Team, a K-9 unit and inspect police vehicles and facilities. Police personnel will be on hand to answer questions and, in observance of Armed Forces Day, members of the U.S. Military will be present to meet with residents and display their vehicles.

Newark Police Department Open House
Saturday, May 15
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Newark Police Department
37101 Newark Boulevard, Newark
(near the intersection of Thornton and Newark Boulevard)
For more information, call (510) 790-7233

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