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Police Service Dog Division (PSD)

Mission Statement

The Police Service Dog (PSD) Division is a support division that provides assistance to other divisions within the Nebraska State Patrol as well as outside Law Enforcement Agencies by the utilizing Police Service Dog Teams stationed across the state to help aid in the detection of controlled substances, locating lost or missing persons, and the apprehension of criminals.

History

The Nebraska State Patrol began using Police Service Dogs in 1988, where two German Shepherds named Caesar and Falco were purchased with a federal grant. The two dogs were selected to be dual purpose dogs, meaning they would be trained and utilized as Patrol/Narcotic Detector Dogs. Both had long and distinguished careers, making numerous seizures and apprehensions of criminals. Due to the success of this “pilot” program, the Nebraska State Patrol increased the number of Police Service Dog teams over the years. Today, the Police Service Dog Division currently has ten PSD Teams operational throughout the state.

The Nebraska State Patrol utilizes Dual Purpose Police Dogs.This means that the dog teams are trained in detection and patrol work. There are currently 10 Narcotic Detector Dog/Patrol Dog Teams and one Explosive Detector Dog/Patrol Dog Team in service around the state.

Selection of Dog and Handler

Dual purpose dogs must possess a number of drives and character traits to be successful. An in-depth Selection Test of quality animals that possess these drives is essential to the workability of the dog and is usually done between the ages of 1-3 years. The dogs are tested and selected before training ever starts. Qualified personnel select a dog and it is then paired with a prospective handler. The State Patrol currently uses the Belgian Malinois breed for its Police Service Dog (PSD)Teams. The Malinois has proven itself to be much more athletic and versatile breed to meet the needs of the Nebraska State Patrol.  Both Dutch Shepherds and German Shepherds have also been used as a part of past Police Service Dog Teams. Almost all of the dogs come from Europe where breeding for police work has been going on since the late 1800’s. The cost of a potential Police Service Dog is currently around $9,500 for a dog that has little or no training. This cost also does not include outfitting the dog with new gear should it be needed. A dog will then typically remain in service for approximately 5-7 years after which the dog will be retired. A retired PSD is usually adopted by its handler.

As much time and effort is expended in handler selection as in dog selection. A handler must have a minimum of two-years of experience as a Trooper and compete in an interview process. An in-home interview is conducted with the perspective handler’s spouse as well as inspection of the grounds and area where the dog will be kenneled. It is important to provide a good environment for the dog when it is not working. Once the handler and dog are paired and adequate facilities are in place at the residence, the dog will stay at the home of the handler during its off time. This allows for a rapid response if the PSD Team was to be called out. PSD Teams are on call at all times. Once the handler and the dog are selected the pair will then report to the Nebraska State Patrol Training Academy in Grand Island to begin training.

Training

Once a PSD Team is selected, it will attend a 13-week training course to become a dual purpose police service dog team.  The first six weeks is focused on the training of a detector dog with the remaining seven weeks encompassing the training of a patrol dog team. During both phases of training, the handler will not only be instructed on how to train and handle a police service dog, they will also acquire skills in tactics, learning how to be problem solvers and independent thinkers. The training of a handler is both mentally and physically taxing and will challenge a person to perform at their best; this is to ensure that they will be successful in the stressful environments a Police Service Dog Team works in. At the conclusion of each training section, the teams will complete a certification in accordance with the Nebraska Police Service Dog Standards. Police Service Dog Teams are required to pass a certification before they can deploy on the street. Mandatory standards were enacted by Police Standards Advisory Council in January, 2015 for all agencies that utilize Police Service Dog Teams in Nebraska. In addition, the Teams are audited monthly and must successfully pass a re-certification every year to remain in-service as a team. The certifications are arduous and are scenario based for street realism. PSD Teams also complete weekly training to maintain the team’s reliability. 

At the conclusion of training a Nebraska State Patrol Police Service Dog Team can provide the following services:

Narcotic Detection: This is an important service provided. Dogs have a keen sense of smell that allows them to detect odors that humans cannot. This becomes very important when dealing with contraband hidden inside a vehicle, package, or residence. A properly trained Police Service Dog Team is a reliable way to determine if the odor of drugs are present in an area, and can establish probable cause to search for those drugs.

Explosive Detection: This lone team is tasked with providing precautionary sweeps at high profile events and responding to bomb threats. An explosive detection dog team is invaluable, as it provides safety and peace of mind.

Handler Protection: This is the most important service a Police Service Dog can provide. A PSD will do everything in its power to protect handler without question.

Tracking: A Police Service Dog team tracks by detecting disturbances left on the ground by a person on foot. Most of the tracking done by Nebraska State Patrol Police Service Dog Teams is an attempt to capture a criminal. Police Service Dog Teams have also been used to track lost or missing people, both elderly and children.

Evidence Recovery: Police Service Dogs search for objects that have human odor on them that may have been dropped or discarded by a criminal. The dog is trained to lie down and stare at the object in an attempt to preserve the forensic value of the item.

Criminal Apprehension: Police Service Dogs are trained to apprehend fleeing or violent individuals. If a subject does not fight or run, the PSD will lie down and bark at the subject until the handler can take control of the suspect.

Building and Area Searches: These types of searches are conducted for suspects and is often one of the most dangerous tasks that a Law Enforcement Officer may face. A hidden suspect has an advantage over police who are attempting to search an unknown area. A Police Service Dog can use all its senses to hunt and locate a hidden suspect. Once the subject is located, the PSD barks rhythmically to notify the handler. Officer safety is greatly improved when using a Police Service Dog Team.

Crowd Control: Police Service Dog Teams are often used to supplement uniform officers who are facing large and sometimes hostile crowds. PSD teams are often placed on the edges of formations to ensure that officers are not surrounded in the event of a hostile demonstration or situation.

Tactical Deployment: The Nebraska State Patrol uses specially trained Police Service Dog Teams in conjunction with its SWAT teams in specialized and high risk incidents. The PSD Teams adapt to the SWAT teams needs based on the situation at hand. Tactical Deployment Dog certifications include perimeter security, team movement, target disruption, dual dog deployment, and drag line. PSD Teams are also taught how to negotiate various terrain and obstacles, including rappelling, in order to meet the needs of the SWAT team and their special mission. The Nebraska State Patrol Police Service Dog Division conducts Tactical Dog Seminars to educate and certify other agencies in this highly specialized area. This training is considered an advanced certification for Police Service Dog Teams. It requires much dedication and time to meet the certification standards and maintain proficiency in this highly skilled area. Not all Police Service Dog Teams are capable of performing this type of work.

In Closing

During 2015, the Police Service Dog Division arrested more than 245 criminals, seized 945 pounds of illegal narcotics having an approximate street value worth of $6,846,150. It also successfully located and/or apprehended 20 criminals with the aid of a Police Service Dog. 

The Police Service Dog Division is dedicated to community awareness. PSD teams conduct educational demonstrations for schools and other community and civic groups in an effort to inform the public about the very special and important function provided to community it serves and law enforcement officers they assist. 

The public has responded by being very supportive with donations. Generous donors have purchased many of the Police Service Dogs that are working the street today. They have also contributed greatly towards the equipment that is needed to train and deploy these teams. Quality dogs are very expensive, often costing upwards of $9,500 for an untrained dog. Equipment and advanced training are also expensive to keep the Police Service Dog Teams on the cutting edge in their field. Donations are always appreciated. 

Donations are handled by the Nebraska State Patrol Foundation, which is a non-profit organization formed to support the agency. If you are interested in making a donation to the Police Service Dog Division or for further inquiries and more information about the Nebraska State Patrol Police Service Dog Division, contact one of the following offices:

 

Lt. Gordon Downing #273
Division Commander
300 West South River Road
North Platte, NE 69101
(308) 535-8047
gordon.downing@nebraska.gov

SGT. Dain Hicks #310
Eastern Supervisor
4130 NW 37th Street
Lincoln, NE 68524
(402) 471-2521
dain.hicks@nebraska.gov

SGT. Russ Lewis #343
Western Supervisor
3600 N. Academy Road
Grand Island, NE 68801
(308) 385-6032 ext. 343
russell.lewis@nebraska.gov

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