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South Salt Lake Journal

New K9 officer joins South Salt Lake’s police force

Feb 23, 2022 06:59PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Fourteen-month-old K9 Officer DROM joins the force. (Courtesy of SSLPD)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

The South Salt Lake Police Department has a new four-legged K9 officer named DROM. He is a 14-month-old German shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix from Slovakia. His handler is Officer R. LaBounty.

K9 DROM joins K9 Rocco on the force. K9 Rocco is a 19-month-old German shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix imported from Slovakia.

Both dogs are in training to find illegal controlled substances. Both dogs live with their handlers and become a member of the family.

K9 DROM and K9 Rocco were purchased through a Utah-based company specializing in importing dogs suitable for police work. 

"The dogs were thoroughly vetted by the handlers and trainers before they were selected and purchased," Danielle Croyle, the public information officer for the police department said.

350 training hours

Before going into service, both dogs and handlers underwent 350 hours of training. The dog and handler need to be recertified each year.

Most K9 officers are trained as patrol dogs with added training in a specific area.

Patrol dogs can track or trail suspects or victims. They aid in criminal evidence recovery with a passive indication that does not contaminate the evidence. They undergo obedience, agility and criminal apprehension training. Dogs are also taught to discriminate between a fleeing or hostile suspect and a surrendering or innocent person. Dogs are trained in the find/bite or the find/bark method of capture. The same dog can be taught both. Patrol dogs are taught to disengage or shut down behavior.

"Patrol dogs are utilized as a searching/locating tool when deployed in a patrol-related function. Because of their incredible sense of smell, patrol dogs help in searching for discarded evidence, searching and clearing a building or open area, and locating suspects who have recently fled from the scene of a crime. Because of their heightened senses, it is safer, more cost-effective, and less time-consuming for the patrol dog team to perform these kinds of searches. It has been reported that patrol dogs can search/clear an open area or an average-sized building up to four times faster than their human counterparts, saving on both time and manpower," according to the Utah POST website. POST stands for Peace Officer Standards and Training.

In the case of K9 Rocco and K9 DROM, they are receiving added training to uncover illegal controlled substances. The idea behind the training is to use the K9's natural drives to find the unlawful substances' odor and disregard other odors. Dogs are trained for specific substances each time they undergo fuller training. The training manual is 675 pages. POST reports that, "Since the creation of the K9 Program, over 24 billion dollars of illegal drugs have been seized by Utah POST K9 graduates."

Other K9 officers can receive specialized training as cadaver dogs, bomb dogs, SWAT dogs, search and rescue dogs, and wildlife detector dogs. A wildlife detector dog works much like a drug or bomb dog, except they are trained to detect the odor of a specific animal.

Two other K9 specialties are tracking dogs and trailing dogs. Tracking dogs are sometimes referred to as footstep detector dogs because the dog focuses on finding footsteps (ground disturbance) and not human odor. This type of K9 is used when a person's exact path is critical to figure out. On the other hand, a trailing dog uses human odor to track the trail of either a lost victim or criminal.