The police community has seen the use of canines in the day to day activity of fighting crime. It is a far cry from the bloodhounds used to track Cool Hand Luke when he would escape from the chain gang. We no longer have chain gangs, we have trustees who show “good behavior” so they can get out of the jail during good weather and pick up garbage along the roads in the county.
Today we have trained canine helpers to specialize in one area, such as tracking, drug detection, food detection at points of entry, crowd control, building searches and so on. If the sense of smell can be used to detect illegal activity, there is a canine specialty for it.
But we have seen an influx of canines used in multiple disciplines. For instance the Miami County Sheriff’s Office has a canine officer, Deputy Tina Waymire whose partner Nero is a tracking dog as well as a drug sniffing specialist. Tipp City Police Sgt. Greg Adkins handles Gitta, also a multipurpose patrol dog. Both dogs are very successful in finding drugs, missing children and adults, pursuing criminals and with their presence, simply scaring would be fighters into submission.
With the use of the canine officers, comes a downside. When the human officer is working a case or is on station doing paperwork or any myriad number of related police activity not requiring the canine officer, what to do with the dog? At TCPD as well as the Sheriff’s Office, there are cages on station with food and water bowls. At times, the dog is allowed to roam the offices, interacting with the officers. Sgt. Adkins tells the story of finding Gitta with an aluminum wrapper from an energy bar. He asked if I used those when my sugar was low and I confirmed that indeed I did keep a bar or two in my desk. I had to purchase a new supply because Gitta found them, opened the drawer and had a snack.
But if we have a suspect to be interviewed or a prisoner on station, we cannot allow Gitta in the building, as it may be claimed the dog was used to intimidate a confession. As ridiculous as that may sound, the defense attorney will use any trick to muddy the true facts of the case.
So I will speak to the Tipp City Canine Cruiser, assigned to Sgt. Adkins and Gitta solely for their use. Let me tell you, after a wet dog has been in a confined cruiser for a shift, no other officer would want to use the car anyway. We presently use a Ford Crown Victoria Police Pursuit Package, outfitted specifically for Sgt. Adkins and Gitta.
Sgt. Adkins sits in the front seat and drives, leaving the back seat for Gitta. At one time it was thought that a SUV was a good canine vehicle, giving the dog more room to move around and allowing the back seat to still hold prisoners with the dog in the rear/cargo area. This over the years has been phased out, due to the dogs having to jump up and down to get in and out of the rear. Police were seeing an early death/disability rate among these dogs, developing hip and joint problems; their bodies wore out early.
So police departments have gone back to using sedans which sit much lower and do not wear on the hips and joints as much. When we purchased Gitta and Patrolman Greg Adkins became the Canine Officer, Dr. Martin English, DVM started a fund drive as “Friends of the TCPD K9” program. The program was an effort to equip the TCPD Canine car with top of the line accessories to keep Gitta safe. The donations were handled by the Tipp Monroe Community Services people to keep everything above board and transparent.
I recently interviewed now Sgt. Greg Adkins, who kept canine Gitta as his partner when he was promoted. Sgt. Adkins studied the canine cruiser inserts, heat alarm detection systems and selected a system called “Hot Dog”, designed by Criminalistics.
The heat alarm has a maximum and minimum temperature that is preset to activate if those temperatures are reached. When the heat alarm is activated, the overhead emergency lights are turned on, the horn begins sounding to alert anyone around that the dog may be in trouble. Along with the lights and horn, the rear windows, where the canine is located, will lower and a large fan will activate, blowing large amounts of fresh air through the insert area of the car. The dog cannot escape, as the insert has a perforated shield blocking any egress.
You may see the canine cruiser parked at the scene of a crime with the engine running. This is an allowance for the canine to be kept cool from the air conditioner. In the event that the air conditioner fails or the cruiser shuts down, again the heat alarm will activate and make sure Gitta is not enclosed in oven type conditions. While inside the cruiser on patrol, the air conditioner duct on the dash board has one duct dedicated to sending air via a tube, into the canine compartment. When the dog is worked, they begin to overheat, just like humans, only they sweat through their nose and pads on their feet. Having her own air flow allows her to cool down more quickly than without it. This helps to prevent heat exhaustion for the dog.
The cost of the equipment to prevent tragedy as we have seen in Mercer County, Camden, N.J. and Nottinghamshire, England recently was $800. Considering the expense of the dog, the initial training, upkeep and continuous in-service training, that was actually a very reasonable cost. It goes without saying what the emotional loss a police department and community feels when they lose member of the department. Gitta is a protector of not only her handler, but of the society in which she and Sgt. Adkins diligently strive to do their duty.