Treat Your K- 9 Unit
Like a Business
by Doug Roller
fter reading the title of this column, you may
think this will be a strange article for a section
of the magazine that is supposed to touch on tactics
and cutting-edge dog training techniques. Let me
explain. As I travel around the country teaching K- 9
search tactics and canine control, the question I am
asked most often is, “How many searches do you do
each year and what is your find ratio?” I’m not going
to answer that question because frankly, you might
not believe me.
There are many reasons why we have such a high
find ratio, but it was not always like that. Back in 1988
when I was a new handler with the Los Angeles Police
Department’s (LAPD) K- 9 Platoon, we had about a 40
percent find ratio and a 50 percent contact ratio.
Today, our contact ratio is much lower but our find
ratio is dramatically higher.
Why is that? Because back in the day, one of our
handlers had the forethought to analyze how perimeters were established. He developed perimeter and
containment tactics that we use to this day. Establishing containment is as much an art as it is a science. So this handler went to several patrol divisions
within LAPD to find out what worked and what
didn’t. We identified certain “target-rich environments” where officers had containment down to a
science. We acquired those tactics, while enhancing
and developing them.
Next, we took it further and started going to roll
calls and talking to patrol officers about what was
working. This had a two-tier effect on our business.
It taught officers how to set up containments and
also got us “face time” with patrol (our bread and
butter). This “face time” was instrumental in getting
patrol to recognize us as an asset to them rather
than an unknown, seldom-used locating tool.
Something else happened that we had not expected: use-of-force incidents went down as a result
of the shift from containment to chasing. The Department and officers soon realized it was safer and more
economical to de-escalate a foot pursuit by containing
the suspect and searching for him on our terms. Over
the years it has been proven repeatedly that it is better to contain than to chase, not to mention safer.
We continued with a push for training and conducted
scenario-based instruction with patrol personnel by
teaching them how to end a vehicle pursuit and how to
parallel pursuits with additional units (a “moving
perimeter”). We showed them during scenario-based
training how fast a suspect can run and how much distance he can cover after leaving a vehicle. Don’t get me
wrong here: an officer has to evaluate each foot pursuit,
making a personal decision to chase or contain. Generally
speaking, though, most foot pursuits leave an officer at
a tactical disadvantage. A suspect only has to run as
fast as he can to escape, while an officer has to run and
think, while staging at corners and negotiating the
One more thing here that I would like to touch on:
As the title suggests, treat your job like a business.
Be available, be nice, and be proactive with your
patrol folks. This is what makes a great K- 9 unit, not
sitting around the coffee shop asking each other
“Why don’t they call us?” Be proactive and seek out
your business. Your business is catching bad guys —
so go get some! n
Doug Roller is chief trainer for the Los Angeles Police
K- 9 Platoon and CEO of Tactical K- 9 LLC. He can be
reached through his website, www.tacticalk-9.com.