The Latest K9 Tech: Chasing Suspects & Saving Lives

Police dog units function around the relationship that the officer has with their K9 partners. Even the smartest canine is only as good as its handler, who can sometimes be limited by human capabilities.

Police dog units function around the relationship that the officer has with their K9 partners. Even the smartest canine is only as good as its handler, who can sometimes be limited by human capabilities. This is where tech can help improve the results of the team.

The benefits of police dogs

In most cases, K9s are used for locating people, drugs and explosives. A study in Michigan (the Lansing Building Search) showed a 93% success rate of K9 units locating 2 suspects, compared to the 59% success rate of a two-man officer only team.

Their sense of smell is truly spectacular: 225 million scent receptors compared to the 5 million in humans. A canine’s nose is so powerful that it can track even under the cover of darkness or difficult weather. Its handler, however, might not be able to follow the dog through low light or difficult conditions.

Night Vision

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Luckily, it’s possible to increase a handler’s capabilities under difficult conditions by equipping them with night vision goggles (NVGs); these detect ambient and infrared light in any given location. 

NVG technology typically makes it possible to generate a monochrome image that handlers can see through their helmet-mounted goggles or monoculars (one eye only). But nowadays, an infrared flashlight can be added to increase the officer’s field of vision.

“If you carry an infrared flashlight while wearing NVGs on a nighttime search, you can illuminate possible hiding areas without generating visible light that a suspect can see,” says Lane Critser, a retired K9 unit supervisor with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.

A more advanced NVG solution includes the use of thermal imaging, also known as enhanced night vision goggles.

Thermal imaging technology measures the differences in temperature, based on the various amounts of radiation emitted by living things, items, and surfaces. Living organisms (in this case humans and dogs), produce more heat than their surroundings, making it easier for an officer to keep track of both their dog and suspects.

Protecting both K9 & Officer Lives

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According to the Terre Haute Police Department, 90% of K9 deaths occur due to heat exhaustion; a statistic that is being attacked via technology such Ace K-9’s ‘Hot-N-Pop Pro.’

During normal police operations, K9s are often left inside patrol cars when they are not needed. This can create a highly avoidable situation of overheating for the dog, with no way for the K9 to escape the car.

Police departments such as Twinsburg, Ohio, have now introduced the Hot-N-Pop Pro into their patrol cars to act as an alarm system for overheating. Once the alarm is triggered, the window will automatically open and fans/air conditioning units will commence. Furthermore, the handler can remotely release the door to allow the K9 to exit the vehicle.

This new technology has a dual benefit of also being able to permit officers to escape from life-endangering situations: Just ask Deputy Todd Frazier of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.

Whilst on patrol in Pearlington, Mississippi, Deputy Frazier exited his vehicle to check on a stationary blue Lincoln car. He was suddenly ambushed by two men who were hiding from view, cut on the head and carried towards sudden death in the woods. But Frazier managed to use his device attached around his neck to release his K9 Lucas, a beautiful black Belgian Malinois. 

K9 Lucas caught and pounced on the attackers, succeeding with several bites that left Lucas covered with his assailants blood. Both Deputy Frazier and K9 Lucas survived the ordeal, with the help of this life-saving tech.

K9 Body Cams

One of the major aspects of a K9 unit’s performance relates to the communication between dogs and their handlers. This is a complex issue because certain situations, such as tracking a subject or surveilling a site, require silence and stealth communications. A handler can’t always be yelling out orders from a distance, running the risk of alerting suspects. 

Advancements in K9 tech now permit communication through the use of wearable camera units: The police dog wears this unit around its body, which can be adapted with bi-directional audio and vibration-led command signals. 

These wearable units can also be adapted with dual high-definition video, lighting features, a tracking system, and motion sensors to activate the cameras. All of this information is relayed back to a tablet, in which the officer can observe and analyze the data in order to make operational decisions and give commands at a safe distance.

Technology is therefore transforming the use of police dogs into mobile data units as well as for their primary purpose of protection and apprehending criminals/evidence.

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