K9 officer: WA bill limiting K9 use makes it hard to catch fleeing violent suspects

Jan 29, 2021, 3:20 PM | Updated: Feb 1, 2021, 9:45 am
Seattle Police K9, dog, Katniss...
Seattle Police K9 Katniss. (Seattle Police Department)
(Seattle Police Department)

The use of K9 police dogs has long been an important part of law enforcement, but a new proposed bill seeks to prohibit officers from using unleashed police dogs to arrest or apprehend suspects. A K9 police officer named Chris joined the Dori Monson Show to discuss his issues with the bill and how it would impact his job.

“There’s been a new version of that bill come out just recently and it goes a little bit further and limits all use of canines for apprehension, period. So essentially, they don’t want dogs being used to touch anybody,” he explained. “… In reality, the dogs are just a fantastic tool. In a perfect world, we’d love to be able to just kind of verbally call people out of places and take people into custody.”

Chris says K9 units are mostly used for violent crimes, and not for misdemeanors or crimes of that nature.

“The reality is that there are times where people flee,” he said. “One, the K9 handler and his partner are some of the most trained tools in the department. Number two is we’re tracking and trying to apprehend only people who are wanted for violent crimes. We’re not tracking people who, you know, steal candy bars. A lot of what we do is domestic violence, or violating protection orders, burglaries, things like that. I mean, we’re talking mostly felony crimes, with the exception of domestic violence or assault.”

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He says many of the suspects they deal with are those who just committed a crime and are in the act of fleeing, often in territory in which using a dog makes it easier to catch them.

“In most scenarios, we’re talking about people who just committed a crime or are wanted for a violent crime, and actively fleeing into our communities, hiding under decks, or culverts, or people’s garages and things like that, most of the time under the cover of darkness,” he said.

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“So you start adding these factors in and these dogs are really one of the only tools we have to help locate these people,” he added. “Most of the time, when we do locate them, we basically tell them, ‘Hey, the dog’s present, we found you. Come on out.’ And 95 times out of 100 people are like, ‘Oh, I’ve been found,’ and we take them into custody without any issue. But every once in a while the dog does have to make contact or bite a suspect.”

The officer also says police dogs are a useful tool for de-escalation and deterrence without using force.

“It’s just a fantastic, less lethal tool, and it’s a deterrent,” he said. “There’s been studies, and I’ve actually sent studies to various members of the Legislature regarding the effectiveness of de-escalation when a canine is present, and no matter what language anyone speaks, no matter what state they’re in, when a dog is present and barking, most of the time people don’t want to run, people don’t want to fight. And we we are able to talk things out and move forward without force being used.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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K9 officer: WA bill limiting K9 use makes it hard to catch fleeing violent suspects