Seattle is home to some of the best K9 officers and trainers in the country. Officers in the unit spend thousands of hours training with their police dogs. Handlers are not only required to train with their dogs every day, but they also live with them. A K9 officer and police dog are certified together allowing for an officer to confidently know how their partner acts and responds to various situations that require K9 assistance. Nevertheless, handlers are being treated poorly.
According to a recent survey conducted by Seattle University, forty nine percent of Seattle residents have a fear of crime in the city they call home. Property crimes came in as one of the top public safety concerns along with car prowls, homelessness, and residential burglary. Instead of enabling SPD to take action to protect Seattle and its residents, current policies and procedures are handcuffing critical units such as the K9 division.
In the past, K9 officers were heavily used to track down car prowlers and auto thefts with major success rates. The K9 officer’s ability to track down thieves additionally stopped offenders from committing more violent crimes in the future. Especially in quieter Seattle neighborhoods that are major targets for property crime offenders. Under the new policy, police dogs will no longer be permitted to be used for property crimes due to the improbable possibility of a dog bite now overshadowing the true professionalism of the K9 officer and the many property crime cases solved thanks to the unit.
The recent changes also include that a K9 officer must first get permission from a sergeant or higher-ranking officer to release their K9 under suspicious circumstances. Though, the approving supervisor on the scene does not serve as the K9 handler in these situations. Furthermore, the policy states that a suspect in these situations must be given a “reasonable” amount of time before the dog can be released. Such immense restrictions on the K9 officer and their police dog leaves them virtually unable to use any tactics they were trained to use to apprehend a suspect. In addition, the Seattle City Council is making matters worse by abusing discipline processes by using uncommon dog bites as evidence against the officers when force is used.
The SPD K9 Unit is comprised of incomparable committed officers. When an officer in the K9 Unit is not responding to an incident, they’re training with their dogs. Police dogs who are trained to find criminals, detect narcotics, and uncover explosive devices. SPD’s K9 Unit also has one of only three electronic storage detection police dogs in the country. Seattle’s K9 Officers are not only impeccably trained in these areas, but SPD ensures its four-legged officers are friendly and comfortable in public, further guaranteeing success rates in Seattle’s urban setting.
Property crimes are clearly heavily on the minds of our community. Creating more policy that forbids K9s to find and apprehend suspects alleged of these types of crimes will only lead to more incidents, and more Seattle residents feeling hopelessness caused by the irrational restrictions placed on SPD.