K-9s at the Broward Sheriff’s Office play a wide-ranging and vital role in supporting law enforcement operations and protecting residents across Broward County. From tracking dangerous suspects to locating narcotics to helping find the most vulnerable missing people, BSO’s K-9s comprise a highly visible, highly trained and highly successful asset for the agency.
The K-9 Unit is not a one-size-fits-all unit. There are different types of K-9s trained to carry out specific functions across several divisions and departments at BSO. For instance, there are Patrol K-9s that help capture fleeing suspects, bloodhounds that help locate missing persons and K-9s that are trained to sniff out bombs. There are also specially trained K-9s that work on explosive ordinance detection teams at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Each of these specialized K-9s and their deputy handlers work in BSO’s Special Patrol Division, which is part of the Department of Preparedness and Response.
In BSO’s Strategic Investigations Division (SID), within the Department of Professional Standards and Investigations, narcotics detection K-9s help uncover illegal drugs in a variety of locations.
Overall, there are dozens of dogs that work for the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Each of the animals and their deputy handlers undergo extensive training before they are certified, and continue to undergo rigorous training on a regular basis in order to accomplish their particular objective and to maintain the highest level of efficiency in their unique skill set.
Eighteen dogs work as Patrol K-9s. This unit is mostly reactive, called on to assist in searching for fleeing or hiding felony suspects. The K-9s may also be used to support SWAT operations or in the service of search or arrest warrants. Patrol K-9s are a less lethal tool and may be required to use force to apprehend a fleeing or dangerous suspect, after appropriate and timely warnings are given and safety precautions taken. According to national standards, less than 30% of K-9 apprehensions should result in a K-9 bite or contact with a suspect. In 2020, BSO’s bite ratio in its Patrol K-9 Unit was 7.5%, much lower than the national standard, showing the level of care and caution taken by the unit in spite of unpredictable, and oftentimes potentially violent, circumstances. Patrol K-9 teams undergo several months of training before working and must be certified before beginning work in the unit. They are also recertified on an annual basis. To learn more about the patrol K-9s and to view some of their training, CLICK HERE.
Bomb Detection K-9s
There are five certified K-9 teams that work in BSO’s Bomb Squad, and the K-9s are used for explosives detection. The Bomb Squad responds to actual or suspected hazardous device and explosive threat calls across Broward County. In 2020, the BSO Bomb Squad deployed 220 times. In those deployments, Bomb Squad K-9s were used in at least 60 of those instances.
Narcotics Detection K-9s
BSO’s SID utilizes 14 K-9s, which are all hunting breeds, and they work in teams with their deputy handlers. In 2020, these K-9s inspected more than 26,000 areas and located more than 450 kilograms of marijuana, 24 kilograms of cocaine, 9.7 kilograms of methamphetamine and 2.5 kilograms of heroin. They also helped recover 53 handguns, 1 shotgun and more than 300 rounds of ammunition. The dogs were responsible for more than 150 arrests and assisted in seizing more than $5 million in U.S. currency. These K-9s and their deputy handlers undergo a 10-week training program and are able to deploy in virtually any environment imaginable.
Eight K-9 teams comprise BSO’s TSA Explosive Ordinance Detection K-9 Unit. Each year, these K-9 teams protect the tens of millions of passengers that pass through FLL, one of the busiest airports in the nation. In 2019, the latest year for which TSA statistics are available, BSO’s TSA K-9 Unit handled more than 4,700 calls for service at the airport and cleared more than 2,100 unattended bags and items. This unit also assists with Secret Service escorts, including the arrivals and departures of the President and Vice President of the United States. Daily training is part of the agenda for these K-9 teams, which must pass a rigorous certification process as well as annual recertification.
BSO has three bloodhounds that search for the most vulnerable missing people in the county – children, the elderly, people with special needs and people living with mental illness. The bloodhounds, with their superior tracking skills, utilize a variety of tracking techniques to carry out searches. Handlers provide the bloodhound the scent of the individual they’re trying to locate, and the dog goes to work. These multi-purpose animals are also cross-trained as therapy dogs, ready to provide a level of comfort to those in need.