K-9 officers get unique search training helpful for court testimony

Published: Jun. 4, 2019 at 7:08 PM CDT
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A recent movie called “The Mule” shows how illegal drugs are transported on highways across the country. That’s not just Hollywood: Real officers are looking for those shipments with help from their canine partners.

Some unique training happening in Springfield, Neb., is designed to make a case stand up in court.

Six pounds of seized pot are placed in a rental truck — and K-9 teams from five states have to detect it’s there.

“Do a sniff like you’d normally do it, one the side of the road — but try to let him do all the work,” one trainer says.

This training session isn’t just for the dogs.

Officers prepare to handle questions in court about how they found illegal drugs.

“You have legal experts and defense attorneys that try to attack when a dog indicates the odor of drugs, claiming the handler is influencing or queuing the dog,” said Ed Van Buren of Blue Warrior Tactics. “By training this way we’re taking the handler out of the training and just holding the leash.”

To prove K-9s are following their noses — not orders — the training involves two rental vehicles with the pot stashed in only one. When the dogs detect the marijuana, they sit and wait not just for an “attata boy” but also a reward.

“Understand cases better, how to approach, and also seek help with the other K-9 handlers to discuss cases,” said Sandra Harman from Switzerland, who is training to be a K-9 officer in Northwest Kansas

Detecting illegal drugs are just part of K-9 training. Handlers learn how to make sure the evidence isn’t thrown out because defense lawyers will dog them about how they found it.

K-9 teams took part in the two-day training session that involves several types of illegal drugs. They also practiced with ways that drug mules try to throw them off the scent.