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Tactical – SWAT Teams or Tactical Response Teams (TRT) may be confronted with a situation where a suspect has hidden or barricaded themselves within a building and a dynamic entry may jeopardize the safety of officers, the suspect and innocent parties.

In situations such as these, a slow and deliberate entry and search would be used.  This requires a team to move slowly and quietly through a building, entering and clearing each room until the suspect is located, at which point several things could occur; negotiations may begin, the suspect could be called out of the room, or a dynamic entry can be made into that one particular room
and the suspect taken into custody.  However, slow and deliberate entries are very time consuming and still place human officers at risk as they enter and clear rooms in an attempt to locate a suspect who is hiding using only their sense of sight.  This is where the use of well trained canine can come into play.

Police canines use all of their sense to locate a person.  The most powerful sense they use is their sense of smell, which is thousand’s of times more sensitive than the human sense of smell.  The next most powerful sense a dog possesses is their hearing, which greatly exceeds human capabilities.  Dogs use their eyesight to help them in confirming what their nose and ears have told them.  Canine searches can be completed much quicker than searches conducted by humans, regardless of the lighting and environmental conditions, and greatly reduce the risk to everyone involved.

A good SWAT or Tactical Response Team dog must possess some of these traits:

  1. Proven Patrol Dog
  2. Highly driven and interested in searching
  3. Ability to be quiet for tactical approaches
  4. Sociable and comfortable working around a group of people in tight/close quarters
  5. Obedient and able o be handled by other team members
    Conversely, SWAT Team members must be comfortable around the dog and confident in the canine’s abilities and trust the handler to set the limitations as to what his/her dog can do.
When using the canine in a SWAT search, the dog is used to clear areas of concern for the officers.  The dog is sent out in front of the team, usually on a lead, to clear hallways, or blind corners.  The canine sniffs the rooms as it passes, enters open rooms, and clears open areas by using its superior senses.  If the dog does not alert, the handler will place the dog in a down position with a hand signals or a very quiet commands.  The SWAT Team or TRT will then move up behind the dog and take up new positions of cover.  The dog will remain in front of the team to protect them from any threat that may suddenly appear.  The handler will then deploy his/her in this same manner throughout the entire building until the suspect is located.  If a canine locates and alerts on the suspect, the SWAT Team will implement one of their trained SWAT tactics to engage the suspect and the dog can be removed until it is needed again. 

SWAT Teams may also choose to use the canine to search large outdoor areas by providing support to the canine handler as they search the area.  The use of the canine substantially lowers the risk of a human officer being hurt or killed by walking up or by a well hidden suspect, and it also allows for a more thorough search of large areas. 
Our canines are often used by our other specialized units, such as our Special Enforcement Detail (S.E.D.), Gang Unit, Tactical Response Team and Narcotics Unit search teams, on perimeters in case the on suspect tries to flee from the area and with the primary arrest team in case the suspect tries to fight with the arresting officers.  In all cases, the use of a canine provides an extra tool for the SWAT Team, S.E.D., TRT, Gang Unit and Narcotics Unit to assist them in conducting their jobs in a safer, more efficient, and more reliable manner.
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