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Storming the bus

Our "prison" with coats/scarves hanging in front to block SWAT's view of us.

I waited seven hours to see the SWAT team storm a city bus. Unfortunately, they did it during the two minutes I was in the Command Post bathroom.

I kid you not.

That disappointment aside, my morning as a volunteer hostage was pretty interesting.

The scenario was that three men had robbed a nearby McDonald’s and when chased by the cops, one ran onto a city bus, and the other two went into a school. So, the SWAT team and negotiators had to be split, though in reality we were all on the same piece of land.

I volunteered to be in the bus, thinking I’d have a good view of what was going on. Except for the end when all the action happened—le sigh—I did.

The most surprising thing I learned was how slowly things move in a standoff. When the SWAT team is called out, this isn’t a quick thing. It takes time for them to arrive, coordinate, set up, get snipers in position, bring out a command post, get a hostage negotiator on scene, fire up the robots…

If you take a group hostage, expect to be there a while. Don’t drink too much, and be patient. Better yet, surrender.

Our "spy" with the "delivery boy" in the background

The other thing that surprised me is how much I wanted the negotiator to just give the gunman what he wanted. I also really, really didn’t want to be onboard when the SWAT team stormed the bus. Even though I know they’re good at what they do, I couldn’t help thinking the whole scene—four of us crammed in the back, three acting as shields for the guy with two handguns—could turn into a blood bath with innocent casualties.

After several hours on board, watching robots spy on us and listening to the one-sided phone conversations where demands were generally not met (either by design or miscommunication), the gunman agreed to exchange me (the “pregnant” lady who had to pee) for a throw phone, since his cell was low on battery.

I followed another hostage to the door so he could get the phone, and he let me out. He also slipped out at the same time, leaving only one hostage behind.

I expected the SWAT team to storm the bus almost immediately–which is why I didn’t take advantage of the bathroom facilities when I initially found out about them–but when they did board, it was quick.

They attached a giant hook attached to a truck to rip the door (which had been handcuffed shut) open, boarded, and took down the gunman with multiple shots. The hostage was unhurt, despite standing right next to him.

When it was all over, the SWAT team, EOD team (who provided the robots), hostage negotiators, and others involved sat through a debrief where they talked about lessons learned.

What did I learn? (Besides the fact that I never want to be a hostage for real?)

Next time volunteer to be in the school.

This hook is at least 3 feet long, and heavy.

The aftermath

The hangover

Last night I got taken away in a police cruiser. My husband was bummed he wasn’t around to take pictures. I was just glad the car was unmarked.

No, I wasn’t being arrested or hauled off for questioning. The officer drove me to the Criminal Justice Academy to get drunk.

That’s right. As a Citizens Police Academy alum, I get the opportunity to volunteer as a role player when the police academy needs to train cadets, or to act as a hostage, victim, or witness for ongoing police force training events (like the SWAT barricade event that didn’t happen).

Last night my job was to get drunk and let the cadets take me through the field sobriety test. I don’t drink much, and it’s probably been more than a decade since I had enough alcohol to really feel the effect, but I couldn’t pass up this chance to help out. 😉

The whole evening was carefully controlled. The coordinator weighed each of the drinkers so we could be properly and safely “dosed”. Once the drinking began, we were assigned chaperones to be with us at all times, and given drinks mixed especially for us.

I chose cranberry juice and vodka, which went down way too easily. We spent the first two hours drinking on command every fifteen minutes, with a break in the middle to take a preliminary breath test (PBT).

We were all guessing our readings, and I figured based on how tipsy I felt that I was over a .1% blood alcohol content (BAC). Wrong. I blew a .056 on the PBT, well under the legal limit of .08. Wow. I may have been legal, but I was definitely impaired and there’s no way I would drive in that condition. In fact, every one of us overestimated our BAC.

After another hour, I blew a .093, and hoo-boy I was feeling it. My table buddies and I were having fun just sitting around talking, and another group was playing cards. Why didn’t I think of that?

Let me take a second to state my amazement at the generosity of some of these folks. Many of them are Auxiliary Police Officers (APOs), which means they go through the same training as, and become, sworn officers, but they do it on a volunteer basis. Most of them also work full time in addition to volunteering a minimum of 24 hours a month.

In Fairfax County, the APOs recently reached one million hours of volunteer time as a group since the program began in 1983. That’s the equivalent of 480 man-years of work. Truly awesome.

The rest of the drinkers and chaperones last night were either Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) who do non-police jobs in the various departments, or CPA alumni like me. Members of both groups regularly give their time and support to the police department.

Okay, back to DWI training. Each of the drunks was a “station” in the gym, and groups of cadets—a mix of FCPD, sheriff’s department, and other trainees—rotated through so that each of them would eventually get the chance to run one of us through the sobriety test, which included eye tracking tests (“follow the tip of my pen”), walking the line, and a test of balance.

No nose touching, thank goodness. I probably would have poked my eye out.

By the third group I found myself thinking things like, “He’s moving the pen too fast,” or “She forgot to ask me if my shoes were comfortable.”

Most of the time I did okay on the heel-to-toe walk and the balance test (martial arts made me a bit of a ringer there), but the eye test never lies. You can’t stop the bounce. The cadets were professional but friendly, and I think we all had a good time.

The event was a terrific way to give them much-needed experience with alcohol-impaired people in a controlled, safe environment. They’re learning to read the signs and make the judgment calls now, before they hit the streets.

I was relieved to learn that even if they didn’t think I was impaired enough for a DWI arrest, they wouldn’t have let me drive home. Police officers don’t play chauffeur though. If you get pulled over and they think you’re not fit to drive, they’ll have you call someone for a ride, or get a taxi.

We took one more PBT at the end of the event—about three-and-a-half hours after we stopped drinking—and I was down to a .066, but still feeling pretty loopy.

Overall, the whole experience was fun. I enjoyed interacting with the cadets and officers, and meeting other volunteers, though I remember now why I’m usually the designated driver. 😉

But I suppose when the next class needs a few drunks, I might be able to meet the challenge.

You know, for the cadets.

Photo credit: 5 DRINKING GLASSES – CLOSE UP © Andy Brown | Dreamstime.com

Citizens Police Academy: The shooting range

Just pulled the trigger on the Sig Sauer

As part of my Citizens Police Academy class, I spent a warm July morning at the shooting range learning how to hit a target with a Sig Sauer P229 and a shotgun. Thanks to the Seven Fundamentals of Marksmanship, I did pretty well.

We started with an overview of weapons used in the department, and their various purposes. The instructors discussed firearms safety and the rules of marksmanship, and we took a look at the a firearms training video game where officers can practice different shooting scenarios in a tactical environment. And the program can shoot back!

If only writing were this easy...

Last time I used a handgun—a Beretta 9mm in Officer Training—I qualified, but the instructor made me shoot with my left hand to match my dominant eye. This time I got to shoot right handed, and boy what a difference.

Have I ever mentioned that I’m a perfectionist by nature? 😉 So, if you give me rules, like the fundamentals of marksmanship, I’ll follow them. I still tried to be quick, but I generally didn’t pull the trigger until my sight picture and sight alignment were as close to perfect as I could make them.

Pull the trigger, keep the target in sight, reacquire the sight picture and alignment, breathe, pull the trigger.

The photo of my target shows the results (from seven yards). I got a few cracks about joining up for the next academy class. I may be able to drive and shoot halfway decently, but I’m way too non-confrontational to be a police officer.

This one had kick!

Not everyone tried out the shotgun after the instructors warned us of the “kick”, but I wanted the full experience, so I gave it my two shots. First time up I kept the stock grounded in in the pocket below my collarbone and the kickback was more like a strong push.

Had to shoot this one left-handed, but got a perfect shot, center mass on my first try. Probably an eight-inch hole in the target from seven yards.

The second shot I lost focus while lining up the target and forgot to keep the shotgun tightly seated. That time it was more like a punch. Ouch! I had a bruise for a few days, but it was worth it.

I love some of the terminology the instructors used.

  • “Let it eat”: fire the weapon
  • “Embrace the explosion”: don’t jump when the gun fires, be ready for the noise and kickback

Takeaways

  • After the Hollywood bank robbery, officers who qualified started carrying the Colt patrol rifle, a .223 round assault rifle so they wouldn’t have to wait for the SWAT team when the suspects are heavily armed.
  • Caliber = chamber size and is a U.S. term. A .38 caliber is .38 of an inch in diameter. Europeans use millimeters. A .38 caliber=9 mm.
  • NATO uses standardized weapons and sometimes stamps the ammunition conversion directly on the weapon.
  • The Sig Sauer has four passive safety features and it won’t fire if dropped, even if dropped on the hammer. The trigger deactivates the safeties.
  • Officers train in both static and tactical environments, and must requalify every year.

Rules of the Range

  1. Treat all weapons as loaded.
  2. Keep finger off trigger until ready to fire.
  3. Never point weapon at anyone unless ready and willing to kill them.
  4. Be sure of target and beyond to avoid “friendly fire” and civilian casualties.

Shooting at targets was a lot of fun, but I have no desire to ever end the life of any human or animal outside of a self- or family-defense scenario, so I think I’ll stick to the range.

For more of my CPA posts, click here.

Photo credit (shooting range): Mort Berger.

Ready, aim, fire!

If only writing were this easy...

As part of my Citizens Police Academy class, I spent Saturday morning at the shooting range learning how to hit a target with a Sig Sauer P229. Thanks to the Seven Fundamentals of Marksmanship, I did pretty well (see photo).

I love the objective nature of shooting at a target. You either hit in the critical area or you don’t. No guessing there. If only there were seven fundamentals of writing that could guarantee a hit.

Certainly there are things writers must do if they want a sale, but there is no set of rules that if followed precisely will ensure a publishing contract. Still, I thought there might be some correlation between the fundamentals of marksmanship, and what it takes to sell a book.

1. Stance: To hit the target, you need a solid foundation. We must study our craft and write regularly in order to build a good story.

2. Grip: Hold the weapon firmly. Hold on to your writing time. Don’t let family, friends, or other commitments keep you from it. Schedule your writing hours and stick to them.

3. Sight Alignment: The front and rear sights should be aligned on top and with equal space on either side of the front post. Align your daily activities with your writing goals.

4. Sight Picture: The sights must align properly with the target. Stay focused on your ultimate writing goals and evaluate regularly to ensure your aim is still good.

5. Breathing: Remember to breathe! Working toward publication can be stressful. Remember to take care of yourself along the way. Deep breathing, yoga, exercise, time with family and friends, and plenty of sleep can keep you refreshed.

6. Trigger control: Use a slow, consistent pressure on the trigger. When you’re ready, start submitting. Do your homework about agents/editors, get your MS, synopsis, and query letter to a professional level, and then fire away.

7. Follow Through: Keep your eyes on the target and finger on the trigger, ready for the next shot. Never give up in the face of rejection. If an agent or editor passes, send out another query. While you’re waiting, start working on the next book.

These rules may not get you published, but they can’t hurt. What are some of your fundamentals of writing?

For more on my day at the range, see this post.

Simulcast at http://romancemagicians.blogspot.com/2011/07/ready-aim-fire.html.

Citizens Police Academy-week 10: driving

FCPD track and range (photo: Google maps)

Last weekend I got to take a police cruiser for a spin. Literally. Fairfax County has a dedicated practice track and shooting range used for training cadets and re-certifying sworn officers. Saturday was CPA graduation day, but before the speech and the certificates and the handshake with the Chief of Police, we hit the driving track.

First up? “Hot laps” on the track with an officer-turned-driving instructor. Outfitted with a CHiPs-style helmet and my seatbelt, I rode shotgun in a cruiser while the driver went from zero to 80, and then slowed to 40mph or so for a turn complete with gravel to make the back tires skid.

We may not have been going top speed, but we were pulling Gs the whole way. Like a roller coaster without the drop. I wanted to raise my hands and yell. I couldn't stop smiling.

The purpose of the track is to help officers learn to drive safely while responding to a call at high speeds. Auto accidents are one of the leading causes of death for officers, and high-speed pursuits and call responses are one reason why.

Takeaways:

  • Keep hands at nine and three to avoid the “Timex tattoo” on your forehead and a broken wrist if your airbag deploys. The 9-and-3 hand position also allows for better control.
  • Lock your doors. Unlocked doors are more likely to open during a crash, which can cause a driver or passenger to be partially ejected. One officer was killed when her door opened during a crash, she fell partially through it (restrained by her seatbelt), then the door slammed back on her head. 🙁
  • Officers are taught to keep windows all (or mostly all) the way up, or all the way down. Sound odd? Picture this: Your window is halfway open, you get T-boned, your head snaps to the left into the top edge of the glass, which is now acting a lot like a blade. Not good.

On the skid pan

Okay, now for the really, really fun part. The skid pan.

The skid pan is a slab of special, extra-slick asphalt that is constantly being doused by fire-hydrant-like sprays of water. Add a pair of slicks—smooth tires—on the back of the cruiser and you have all the ingredients for a spin.

During skid pan training, I got to drive. All by myself. The only link to the instructor was through the radio, over which he gave instructions and encouragement as I drove in circles around the wet pavement, trying to send the Crown Vic into a spin.

Turns out, I’m pretty good at recovering from a skid. Good to know considering the snow and ice we get here. I did manage to get in a couple of spins from which I couldn't recover. It’s fun when you’re not staring down a speeding semi on the freeway!

Takeaways:

  • If you skid, turn into it, meaning turn the wheel in the direction the back of the car is moving.
  • If you feel the car slipping stay off the gas and the brake.
  • If you have a teenaged driver, and live in Northern Virginia (Fairfax County residency not required), consider signing him or her up for the youthful driver course. Or check for one in your area. They provide hands-on training about recovering from skids, dealing with changing road surfaces, and general driving safety geared toward common teen-driver issues.

So much better than the back seat!

After all the fun on the track, we got a quick tour of the shooting range. We were supposed to shoot, but will have to come back after renovations are complete. The facility includes a paper-target range, an outdoor range with knock-down targets where officers can practice shooting on the move, and a building where they can practice shooting at each other with simunition (basically paint balls). In the building space, they work on active shooter and hostage-type drills while instructors watch from a catwalk above.

Finally after a standing in drizzle, wearing a helmet several times, and getting drizzled on some more, I took my rat’s nest of a hairdo inside for a quick speech from the Chief of Police who then gave out certificates with a handshake and a smile for the camera. We chowed down on potluck food, and said our thank yous and goodbyes.

I learned a lot from the Citizens Police Academy. I was nothing but impressed with every FCPD officer, staffer, and volunteer I met during the 10-week course. They’re dedicated, friendly, helpful, and genuinely happy to get a chance to meet citizens who are interested in what they do and how they do it.

Gaining a better understanding of how the police department works—and getting a peek at all the cool toys—was great, but probably the best part was realizing that cops are people too. Everything they do is either for our safety or their own. Be respectful and they’ll return the favor.

If you have access to a Citizens Police Academy in your area, I highly recommend the experience.

To read more about my experiences in the FCPD CPA, click here.

Photo credits (skid pan and me in cruiser): Mort Berger.

My trip to jail

Single cell at the ADC (maximum security) http://www.fairfaxcounty. gov/sheriff/jailhousing.htm

On Thursday night I went to jail. Luckily I was an invited guest of the Sheriff’s department, and not in a handcuffed-in-the-back-of-a-cruiser kind of way. The Adult Detention Center (ADC) tour was an optional part of the FCPD Citizens Police Academy that I’ve been attending for the last ten weeks.

In Virginia, the jails are run by the Sheriff’s Department. There’s a difference between a jail and a prison. At least here, the jail is where suspects go to await trial, or to serve a sentence of less than 12-18 months. Prison is for convicted felons serving sentences of more than one year.

That wording is even important. Someone sentenced to 13 months will go to the jail. A sentence of one year means prison. Not sure why.

We started our tour in the courthouse. They’re modern, high-ceilinged rooms with computer monitors for the judge, clerk, lawyers, and juries, as well as large monitors for the gallery. Lawyers use digital overhead projectors or computers to display evidence, and the judge can control which monitors are turned on.

Next up, the Sheriff’s department served us dinner. We didn’t get prison food—or the dreaded “loaf” that troublemakers get—we ate what the staff eats. Before the meal, our guide (Sergeant W) gave an overview of jail life.

The floors are organized so that the higher you go, the higher the level of security. Cells on the exterior of the building are also lower security than those on the inside: no window.

Virginia uses what’s called lock-in-lock-out, where the inmates are locked into their cells at night, and locked out of their cells for 12 hours each day. LILO helps prevent attacks where one inmate is pulled into an open cell. It also provides them less time to do things like make weapons or try to tunnel through a wall.

Because they are forced into a common room all day, they’re easier to keep an eye on.

Inmates eat two warm meals a day—both in their cell—and a cold lunch. They’re awakened for breakfast at 0430 each day, and forced to leave their cell at 0830. The jail tries to get them into a responsible habit of waking early so when they’re released they won’t be used to sleeping the day away.

They get one hour of recreation room time to play basketball or volleyball, or use aerobic machines. There are no free weights or weight machines in the jail. The purpose of rec time is to burn energy, not build lean, mean fighters.

And speaking of fighting, Sergeant W showed us how even the simplest things could become weapons. He made about 12 layers of one-ply toilet paper, then twisted it several times until it became strong enough that none of the guys in class could break it! Cheap TP turned noose or garrote. If wet repeatedly like paper-mache, it could be turned into a bat.

An untwisted paper clip can become a weapon if poked into the face, eyes, side of the head. A light switch cover can be ground to a sharp edge and used as a shank or to cut away at the block wall or metal bars.

In jail inmates lose many of their rights. They can be searched without probable cause, for any reason at all. Everything in jail is a privilege, and as such, can be taken away for punishment. For example, phone time. (All phone calls are recorded, BTW.) The only thing allowed on TVs are sports, educational shows, and TVLand.

After dinner, we started the actual tour, beginning in the sally port where the police cars come in through a large metal door into an underground garage. The offender is brought into an airlock-type anteroom where they must wait until the heavy, metal door clangs shut behind them before the entrance into the intake area opens.

I wrote about the frightening sound of that door shutting in my ride-along post. It still made me jump every time on the jail tour too.

Once the detainee enters the intake area, deputies give him (since ~90% are men, I’ll use “he”) a pat down, just in case the arresting officer missed something. He’s then taken by the arresting officer to the magistrate where the officer states the case for arrest. When the magistrate issues the warrant, the inmate is in-processed by a deputy including basic personal and medical information (in case of a medical emergency they need to know about health issues), fingerprints, and photo.

The inmate is put in a holding cell until categorized for placement into the larger population. The logistics of placement are based on a complicated mix of his alleged crime, past behavior, possibility of mental health issues, and even things like gang affiliation. The goal is to avoid conflicts between other inmates as much as possible.

We passed several individual cells for those identified with mental health concerns, or those causing trouble in the main holding cell. We were warned to stay away from the food slot to avoid being grabbed. It’s kind of sad looking through the window at men or women in a room the size of a closet with nothing more than a slab for a bed and a tiny potty.

We all got quite a shock when we glanced into one cell to find a man stark naked, facing the window!

The Fairfax ADC has a video arraignment system so that inmates don’t have to be transported to court. This is especially handy for inmates who have warrants in other jurisdictions within Virginia. Actually, it’s handy for those jurisdictions who don’t have to spend the money or time to send two officers to transport him. It’s also safer for the officers and the inmate, and reduces the chance of escape.

Next we visited each of the levels of the jail building. We even went inside a the women’s day room to get a look around. That was a bit awkward, and we tried to look around without making eye contact or staring.

Sergeant W also stopped an inmate who was cleaning the corridor—the lower-risk inmates can clean, do laundry, or work in the kitchen—and asked him a few questions. The man had been incarcerated in North Carolina and D.C., and the Fairfax ADC was by far the strictest place he’d been, but also the safest. He didn’t want to say what he’d done, but he was working on his GED in jail.

The ADC provides educational classes focused on core values like anger management, parenting, and the high school equivalency exam. They also have a law library and a regular library. All the books are PG. No sex scenes! And nothing violent. I joked that I guess my books would never end up in the jail library. I think I’m good with that. 😉

Inmates can have visitors, but all visits are strictly no contact. They’re done through a clear shield on a phone. Sorry, no conjugals here. Also, all contact is monitored.

One thing that really struck me was how clean the ADC was. Outside of the one “padded” cell we looked at—not actually padded, just bare—which was kind of sticky, the whole building gleamed. Nothing cluttered the halls, the floors and walls were shiny and unmarked, the cells were neat.

Inmates are limited to one standard-sized box of personal items. Anything that doesn’t fit will be thrown out by the deputies. The policy reduces clutter and fire hazard (intentional or otherwise).

Our last stop was for a quick Q&A session with one of the female deputies. Since she guards both men and women’s sections—just like men do—she really has to work on her command presence. She has to be stern but fair, and work harder than a man might because she has no size advantage for the intimidation factor.

She must let the inmates know up front that she’s not a pushover just because she’s a woman. In fact, it's important for male deputies to establish right away that they're not easily swayed, too. Some of the inmates are master manipulators, so all deputies must remain on guard.

Overall, I came away very impressed with the ADC and the Sheriff’s department. Jail was an eye-opener. Not that I ever doubted my desire to stay out, but clean as it was, I know the only way I want to go back is if I’m getting another tour!

Citizens Police Academy-week 9, part 2: EOD & K-9

After the SWAT team visit last Thursday, we had a presentation from the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team, a.k.a. the bomb squad, and the Canine Patrol Unit.

Fairfax has two full-time EOD officers and six supplemental team members, plus four canine partners. But is there really a need for an EOD squad? Yes! Here’s what they do.

Render safe. EOD is called on to render safe any suspicious package or suspected explosive device. They can use tools such as x-ray machines to determine what’s inside. “Render safe” is one of the most dangerous parts of the job.

Ammo/Explosives/Ordnance Disposal. After items like ammunition and explosives are done serving as evidence, they must be disposed of. Also, sometimes residents in the county call in items that they don’t know what to do with. The team burns or detonates the items, generally in an active quarry.

In one story, a gentleman thought he was rendering old Civil War cannonballs safe through a drilling process. (BTW, those are actually property of the US government, so not only was he being unsafe, he was breaking the law by not turning them in.) After drilling out the explosive powder, he was cleaning up the outside of a cannonball when a spark from the metal ignited material inside the 150-year-old ordnance, which exploded.

Unfortunately, he was working inside a circle of similar cannonballs and the EMTs couldn’t get to him until the munitions had been rendered safe. The man died.

Afterwards, the EOD team was flooded with calls from the restorer’s clients.

Assist other teams. The EOD team assists SWAT with all things explosive. They set breach charges and train the SWAT members in explosive breach techniques. They lend their robots for help with clearing rooms, providing surveillance, and communicating with the suspect in hostage situations.

The Fire Department calls on EOD to help with chemical Hazmat situations, and the police department taps their knowledge as subject matter experts for investigations of fires and bombings/bomb incidents. EOD also supports federal agencies as needed.

K-9 Sweeps/Searches. Highly-trained dogs are used to search an area for an unknown/unspecified threat. The EOD dogs—usually labs because they’re passive—can distinguish 19,000 separate explosive odors. To stay active on the force, they must ID an explosive with 100% accuracy during their recertification testing. (They can wrongly ID something that’s not explosive, but they can’t fail to identify something that is.)

EOD K-9s only work for food, only eat as a reward, and are only fed by hand. The dog we met has never eaten from a bowl. The handler must actually hide tiny amounts of explosive and have the dog find them so that the dog can eat!

Provide training and demonstrations. The EOD team provides presentations and training to civic groups and other law enforcement agencies.

EOD tidbits:

  • The EOD suit weighs 80 pounds plus equipment. It’s made to withstand one pound of force from ten feet. If the suit isn’t enough to protect the EOD officer from the threat, he’ll generally opt not to wear it at all.
  • The face shield on the protective helmet is two inches thick!
  • They have multiple sizes of robots, from little guys that weigh 40 pounds (and cost $250K) to one that weighs almost a ton (see photos).
  • Robots can use a shotgun to render safe, but not to shoot a suspect.
  • Dogs attend a 16-week EOD training school offered by the CIA. ATF has one too, but it’s farther away.

There’s another unit in the FCPD that uses dogs. The Canine (K-9) Unit has two main missions: track suspects and find drugs.

Tracking suspects. K-9 dogs are only called in for felony pursuits and serious misdemeanors (DWI, domestic violence). They’re almost never used to find lost or missing persons. Why? Because K-9s are trained to bite their target and hold on. Their instinct is to bite whatever’s moving, so while they’re trained to grab the meaty shoulder area, if your arms are flailing they’ll likely go for an arm.

They track on human odor, and can distinguish between old and recent odor (recent being within the last 15 minutes or so). The Belgian Malinois we met once tracked a man across a river and picked up the scent on the other side.

Finding Drugs. K-9 dogs can recognize a drug from the tiniest trace. They can sniff out drugs like marijuana, hash, coke, crack, PCP, heroin, LSD, and MDMA (Ecstasy, X, E).

K-9 dogs are working dogs until they retire. They are never allowed to socialize with other dogs (especially other K-9s) because they’re all alpha males and they need to maintain that belief. The only one who’s higher on the hierarchy than the dog is the handler.

They also don’t socialize with people outside of the handler’s family because they shouldn't get comfortable with human social interaction. The humans these dogs meet are targets!

The dogs used in the FCPD are either German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois. They are acquired close to two years of age when they can be tested for their natural drives. To maintain those drives, the dogs—generally males because they’re more aggressive—are not neutered.

Unlike the EOD dogs, patrol dogs do not get food while working. They need to be hungry to maintain their drive to seek, and their reward is a ball. They are fed before and after work, from a bowl.

It can take a year or more for the handler and the dog to “learn” each other. The handler has to recognize when the dog has lost the scent or he’ll be led on a goose chase as the dog tries to please the handler by finding something. The dog must recognize when the trainer is pleased or upset.

Patrol dogs wear a harness, which signals to the dog that it’s work time. The dogs get excited when the harness goes on. They love to work. When a K-9 isn't working, he spends most of his time in an indoor kennel (left open during the day) or an outdoor run.

Last Thursday's SWAT, EOD, and K-9 class was the last regular session of CPA, but tonight I’m taking a tour of the Adult Detention Center (jail!), and on Saturday I’ll be driving a cruiser on the practice track, so there are a few more posts yet to come.