Everyone loves a police canine demonstration exhibiting the profoundly phenomenal skills and innate super-sensory capacity of dogs. It always thrills children when law enforcement handlers bring their police dogs to schools and put on a show. The relationship between dog and police handler is inspiring.
From tracking fleeing suspects to rooting out concealed criminals, police dogs singlehandedly (okay, okay, four fast paws and one highly equipped snout) apprehend bad guys. Homeland Security teams deploy drug detection canines at airports and amass contraband. Detectives employ the sniffing prowess of hounds to unearth cadavers sought in cold case homicides. Police dogs locate autistic children prone to elopement and wandering. And then there are dogs whose bomb-sniffing noses take the blast out of potential carnage. These olfactory officers make great police partners and save countless lives in exchange for a treat, and what a treat it is to work alongside each one of them.
How do police dogs do it?
In terms of olfactory efficiency, the canine design is incredible. Like a bi-lateral conduit, police dogs have about three hundred million sensory receptors in their moist, spongy noses, the cellular structure of which helps a dog to “see” justice is done by inhaling, processing and coding odorants. It is like a super-computer on four paws. Funded by the Office of Naval Research, Professor Clive Wynne of Arizona State University (ASU) operates the Canine Science Collaboratory, which researches odor discrimination learning.
According to the ASU website, Dr. Wynne specializes in generating advanced methods to train canines to keep pace with terrorists who we know are devising ways to circumvent police dogs. In one 2009 case, for example, an underwear bomber wore an undergarment liner that was padded with a substance engineered by Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, a Saudi-born bomb aficionado who concocted novel methods to mask explosive ingredients from detection by TSA authorities and airport police dogs.
Along with federal authorities, Dr. Wynne is developing ways to counter the methods of Asiri and similar nefarious bomb makers by exposing police canines to every possibility imaginable, especially since dogs possess the innate capability necessary to successfully train to prevent bomb blasts.
On the trail of justice
A sheriff’s office canine unit in Pasco County, Florida exemplifies the dynamic range of police dog skills and applications. Some are specially trained in narcotics detection, while others are trained in sniffing materials used in bomb-making.
In an ongoing criminal prosecution in which the accused shot and killed a movie theater patron, the presiding judge initiated a personal/professional visit to the Cobb Theater. Like putting a picture to a voice, the judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys attended a simulated version in the movie house. The crux of the visit stems from scoping the exact environment in the context of the Stand Your Ground law, which the defense is arguing. Judge Susan Barthle occupied seat #9 (the one the shooter used) and watched the same previews with the exact audio and lighting levels as the time of the incident. Per the judge’s request, precautionary measures such as “sweeping” the theater were performed by a law enforcement canine skilled in such matters.
Like an advance team in the military, the PCSO canine cops deployed their sniffing sleuth “Ace,” an acutely trained bomb-sniffing dog, before the judge and entourage entered the theater. Other than a few errant Juicy fruits, Ace found nothing suspect. The judiciary assessed the crime scene unhindered and recorded all its nuances that may or may not be pertinent to the case.
Incidentally, the victim and his alleged killer, with respective wives, were a row apart and were there to see Lone Survivor. On that fateful day, one wife left as a witness, the other wife left as a widower on a gurney (a solitary bullet pierced her hand and lodged in her husband’s chest), and the lone survivor confronts the judiciary for shooting a man he claims he feared.