K-9 Officers Spring into Action
By Angelica Garcia
For the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, canine officers are among their key law enforcement assets. The canine unit, better known as K-9, is made up of 28 canine officers, each paired up with a specially-trained human officer with whom they undergo an intense one-on-one training for three months.
“What was most amazing to me was that (my canine officer) was only 13 months old, and in just three months he advanced so much. They do even more than what we do; we send them into situations we sometimes can’t go into,” said Joshua Ramirez, an officer with the Sheriff’s Department K-9 unit.
Provided they survive their sometimes-dangerous work, most officers are retired after 10 years of honorable service. During that time, they perform a variety of tasks that go from finding weapons and drugs to searching for suspects.
“There is no limit to what these dogs can do. It all depends on what you expose the K-9 officer to, what scenarios and situations. They can look for narcotics, suspects who maybe fled a scene, and an endless number of things,” shared Plutarco Vail, an expert in K-9 officer training.
Vail went on to state that K-9s can do some tasks better than human officers, among them searching for dangerous objects and people. They can go over areas that human officers have already checked, he said, and are able to find key pieces in a case, even hours after the original operation took place.
“I think that the biggest thing they do is to safeguard the community and other officers. Many times, officers face dangerous situations where the best tool they have may be their dog, said Vail.
One of the hardest challenges for new K-9 unit handlers is perhaps the training, since it demands constant concentration, passion, and practice, because each canine officer has heightened senses that need to bond with their human partner.
“It’s tough, because sometimes the dogs have their own way of doing things, sometimes they do not want to obey, depending on the day or if they’re really tired. There’s a lot you need to see in the dog and that they see in our movements,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez is one of four officer/handler partners who recently graduated from the Sheriff’s Department K-9 academy. They began their three-month training in July of this year and graduated with honors.
The four K-9 officers, Dan, Bono, Nitro and Ty, are now ready to protect the people of San Diego. Dan and Bono will be reporting this month to work at the Vista Sheriff’s station; Ty will be keeping people safe through his assignment to the Sheriff’s substation at Valley Center; and Nitro will be patrolling out of the Ramona Sheriff’s station.