Creating an Effective K9 Unit: Part 1

Story By Brad Smith for Working Dog Magazine

 

Vendor, Trainer, Handler, & Dog Selection

Agencies that have or are thinking about starting a K9 unit should step back and make an honest assessment about whether such a unit is truly needed. I realize that driving around in a K9 vehicle is cool, and it has the CDI (chicks dig it) factor, but unless there is a real need and a careful selection of handler and K9, a department may be biting off more than it can chew, no pun intended.

In this article, we will discuss what each agency and supervisor needs to consider when it comes to the selection of a vendor, trainer, handler, and dog. Other important topics you will need to consider to ensure you have a successful K9 unit will be discussed in a future article.

As we consider the inherent potential for civil liability commonly associated with having a K9 unit, we must acknowledge and purposefully put into play the essential elements that create K9 success stories. One of the key aspects of a K9 operation, which a plaintiff’s attorney will evaluate in deciding whether to file a lawsuit, is the unit’s training program. Barring an absolute criminal act by the handler in using the dog, the facts and circumstances a civil attorney uses to construct a lawsuit are nearly always built upon a foundation of poor or insufficient training, documentation, and supervision.

The three basic areas that build a successful K9 unit are the right handler, the right dog, and the right training. To further strengthen these three essential elements, it is imperative to keep proper training and deployment records as a way to show that all three elements remain in good working order.

Good recordkeeping along with ongoing training helps prove a K9 team’s reliability. In other words, you’re recording things that help prove to a jury that you were able to perform in the manner in which you say you deployed. Continuing education and additional training will be an important ingredient and help support the idea that your K9 unit meets or exceeds the current state and national minimum training standards of 16 hours a month.

K9 performance on any level and in all disciplines is built upon the theory that every K9 skill is perishable, and that performance levels will decline without frequent training, hence the need for both training and evaluations to help prove reliability.

Creating a successful K9 unit isn’t like purchasing a fleet of patrol cars or new pistols for everyone in the agency. You can’t just read up on the latest trends and go with the lowest bids and expect the team to perform like every other team across the country. Prior to establishing a unit, your education should come from a reliable source, such as a well-established consultant whose advice is not influenced by third-party vendors. The consultant should be someone who will help guide the department in the right direction both for purchasing a dog and for training a team. The best way to beat a civil lawsuit is to do what you can to prevent one from ever being filed.

 

Selecting a Vendor and Trainer

Once you have decided to start a K9 unit — whether for patrol, detection, or tracking — you’ll then have to decide where to purchase dogs and who will provide training for the K9 teams. Don’t assume that just anyone can supply your department with the quality dogs it needs. When it comes to selecting a K9 vendor, it’s critical that you do your homework and research the vendors carefully. Don’t simply select the vendor closest to you, the one that gives you the best deal, or provides the lowest bid. Does that reasoning sound familiar?

Shortly after 9/11, numerous new K9 vendors emerged across the United States. Many offered unbelievable prices and said they could provide trained dogs within a few weeks. A number of departments purchased dogs without doing their due diligence. Within six to nine months, many of those new vendors had made a lot of money, but because they could not consistently deliver what they advertised, they had to close up shop and go elsewhere to offer their fraudulent claims, leaving their law enforcement customers with less-than-optimal quality and poorly trained K9s.

Therefore, it’s important to select a K9 vendor who is reputable, knowledgeable, and experienced in the law enforcement K9 arena and guarantees their dogs. Be sure you ask about the owner’s background, as well as the backgrounds of the instructors – they should have training or service in law enforcement. A civilian instructor can teach a police dog handler a lot, but there are many things – such as tactics – that a civilian instructor cannot teach. Also, instructors must be up to date on current K9 search techniques.

 

Selecting a Handler

When it’s time to select a new handler, a department must determine whether it has viable in-house candidates for the position. Many people think that the dog determines how good the K9 team will be, but in reality, it is the handler who makes or breaks the success of the K9 team. We have a saying in the K9 world: “It goes right down the leash.” Pair a mediocre dog with a good handler and that handler will make the dog better than anyone thought possible. However, pairing a good dog with a mediocre or poor handler will result in the dog having poor or mediocre street performances.

Another key to a smooth-running K9 team is to ensure that the dog and handler are a good fit. The last thing you want in a K9 team is a 90-mph dog paired with a 30-mph handler.

So what should you look for in a K9 handler? The ideal handler is an officer who is a hustler, a go-getter, and who is not afraid to work. A person to avoid is one who is happy being average. I don’t know about you but I don’t want an average handler on my team. The ideal handler is one who is always trying to improve themselves and their dog. I believe it’s important to review the officer’s annual performance evaluations to determine what previous supervisors think of him. I also believe that it’s important to review the officer’s background to see whether they have sustained any use of force complaints.
Other important attributes of a desirable handler are those who have a strong character, leadership ability, and good communication skills. It’s also important that the handler has experience working in the field – patrol – because when a situation arises, officers at the command post will look to the handler to formulate a plan, communicate that plan to everyone, and then execute the plan. If you select a young, inexperienced officer, he or she will likely be overwhelmed in such a situation and the K9 team may be doomed to fail.

When it comes to actually selecting a new handler, in addition to the standard procedure of writing a memo and an oral board, some departments give the potential handlers a physical fitness test to determine whether they are capable of performing the job on a daily basis and working with department K9s on obedience training and bite work. Be sure you don’t lower the bar and increase your agency’s exposure to civil liability by selecting a mediocre to average handler. I would rather leave a K9 handler position vacant than fill it with someone I know is not physically or mentally capable of top-notch performance.

The handler also needs to understand that his partner is not a pet, but rather a law enforcement tool. If you take anything from this article, it should be that we as K9 handlers must look at the bigger picture when it comes to our job. Think in more than one dimension by stepping out of your shoes and into the shoes of your bosses, other officers, and those who want to take money out of your pocket by suing you.

Remember, pets have very few rules and humans set expectations in their lives. As a result, they have very few responsibilities and fewer performance measures to achieve. The life of a police dog is completely geared toward performance. The responsibilities that accompany and measure that performance rest squarely upon the shoulders of a K9 handler. Always remember that your police dog is your responsibility all the time. Structured, monitored, and controlled socialization should be a handler’s goal.

 

Selecting a Dog

Back in the early days, handlers wanted the biggest, baddest, meanest dog around. They thought those characteristics would make a good patrol dog. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In many cases, the handler got what he asked for but was unable to control the dog and make it do what was necessary to successfully work the street.

As I mentioned previously, you don’t want that 90-mph dog paired with a 30-mph handler. It’s extremely important to find a dog that suits your law enforcement needs and is compatible with the handler. Over the years, I have learned that it’s not necessarily the dog with the highest drive that makes the best patrol dog. Often, a medium-drive dog will work better on the street – do more and do it better than a higher-drive dog – because the handler will be better able to control the dog.

In my opinion, it’s important to have a highly socialized dog. Some people think that a social dog won’t engage on the street, but I’m here to tell you that is a false assumption. All three of the dogs I worked on the street over a 20-year period were extremely friendly: I could let them run around the police department and expose them to a lot of kids during school demos. Because of their sociability, I never worried about doing demos or neighborhood watch meetings. I’m always amazed when I run into dogs that have an extremely high defense drive that want to growl and bark at everyone who approaches them.

A strong, dominate dog placed with a handler who is unable or unwilling to take control of the dog and manage the strong personality, will inevitably have accidental or unintended bites, resulting in lawsuits against the agency.

Make sure you select a dog you can control with the drives and courage you need, but one that also has the temperament to work well with trainers, handlers, and the general public. You never know when you might be asked to bring your dog into a courtroom so a jury can see him. The last thing you need is for the jury to hear your dog growling and barking at everyone in the hallway before you even enter the courtroom.

One of the biggest questions you must answer is whether you will buy a green dog versus a titled dog. A green dog is the term we use to describe a dog that has limited or no training. Such dogs typically are very young, but if they make it through law enforcement training, they will likely will have a long career.

The term titled dog refers to one that is two or three years old and has earned a Schutzhund (protection dog) or Koninklijke Nederlandse Politiehond Vereniging (KNPV) title.

In addition to the training issue, another consideration in buying a titled dog versus a green dog is cost. Believe it or not, green dogs are usually only a few thousand dollars less than a titled dog. The one advantage of purchasing a titled dog is the initial basic K9 training typically takes less time; sometimes as little as six weeks until the dog is ready to hit the street.
When considering a specific dog, you should test it before purchasing. I normally like to test the dog’s obedience, walk the dog on slippery floors, see how it reacts to gunfire, determine whether the dog will go into a dark room, and evaluate his endurance and agility.

When testing several dogs, document each evaluation to ensure you select the best one for your department. I believe it’s important for the K9 supervisor to be present during the selection process. Even if the supervisor relies on the trainer’s recommendation to make the selection, in the chain of command, the K9 supervisor ultimately will have final approval.

Some agencies will test many dogs in one day. The testing can be video recorded for review at the end of the day. Some agencies also document each dog’s review by using a preprinted worksheet that has a specific checklist. Such written documentation also can be reviewed to refresh your memory should more testing or evaluation need to be done prior to the final purchase.

Hopefully I have given you a few things to think about. In my next article, we will discuss such topics as K9 policy, K9 training and schools, decoys, and the ever-popular role of the K9 supervisor.


About the Author

Brad Smith retired from the West Covina Police Department in southern California after 30 years of service. Brad was a handler and trainer there for 25 years and a SWAT dog handler for 18 years. Since 1999, Brad has been national K9 chairman for NTOA and a K9 subject matter expert for the California Association of Tactical Officers. He specializes in field tactics and officer safety.

Brad is a graduate of the California POST Master Instructor Development Program (Class 5), where he designed and implemented a K9 SWAT and K9 patrol tactical school called SKIDDS and CATS. Brad is also the owner of Canine Tactical Operations and Consulting and provides expert K9 witness testimony.

Brad is the author of two books: K9 Tactical Operations for Patrol and SWAT and K9s in the Courtroom. Brad has published over 100 articles for a wide variety of publications on K9 SWAT deployment and training.

Email: Topdogwck1@aol.com

Story is reprinted from Working Dog Magazine.

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Justice Department Announces New Rule Implementing Federal Time Credits Program Established by the First Step Act

Today, Thursday January 13, the Department of Justice announced that a new rule has been submitted to the Federal Register implementing the Time Credits program required by the First Step Act for persons incarcerated in federal facilities who committed nonviolent offenses. As part of the implementation process, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has begun transferring eligible inmates out of BOP facilities and into either a supervised release program or into Residential Reentry Centers (RRCs) or home confinement (HC).

“The First Step Act, a critical piece of bipartisan legislation, promised a path to an early return home for eligible incarcerated people who invest their time and energy in programs that reduce recidivism,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today, the Department of Justice is doing its part to honor this promise, and is pleased to implement this important program.”

The First Step Act of 2018 provides eligible inmates the opportunity to earn 10 to 15 days of time credits for every 30 days of successful participation in Evidence Based Recidivism Reduction Programs and Productive Activities. The earned credits can be applied toward earlier placement in pre-release custody, such as RRCs and HC. In addition, at the BOP Director’s discretion, up to 12 months of credit can be applied toward Supervised Release. Inmates are eligible to earn Time Credits retroactively back to Dec. 21, 2018, the date the First Step Act was enacted, subject to BOP’s determination of eligibility.

Implementation will occur on a rolling basis, beginning with immediate releases for inmates whose Time Credits earned exceed their days remaining to serve, are less than 12 months from release, and have a Supervised Release term. Some of these transfers have already begun, and many more will take place in the weeks and months ahead as BOP calculates and applies time credits for eligible incarcerated individuals.

The final rule will be published by the Federal Register in the coming weeks and will take immediate effect. The rule, as it was submitted to the Federal Register, can be viewed here: https://www.bop.gov/inmates/fsa/docs/bop_fsa_rule.pdf

Please note: This is the text of the First Step Act Time Credits final rule as signed by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, but the official version of the final rule will be as it is published in the Federal Register.

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State Your Case: Should Law Enforcement Endorse Safe Injection Sites?

From Police1.com

In late 2021, the nation’s first safe injection sites, also called overdose prevention centers (OPC), opened in New York City. Drug users can bring their drugs to the sites where trained staff provide clean needles, monitor them during use and can provide naloxone if necessary. 

The NYC Health Department reports that, in the first three weeks of operation, staff at the two OPCs averted at least 59 overdoses to prevent injury and death. In the first three weeks of operation, the centers have been used more than 2,000 times.

“These data are promising and show how Overdose Prevention Centers will reduce needless suffering and avoidable death,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “The simple truth is that Overdose Prevention Centers save lives – the lives of our neighbors, family and loved ones.”

In December 2021, the Fund for Public Health, a non-profit organization in New York, opened a request for proposals to install public health vending machines that will dispense naloxone and clean needles in an effort to help those who are “disproportionately burdened” by overdoses.

In a recent poll, Police1 asked readers if safe injection sites can help reduce drug overdoses. Here’s how you responded. Click here to vote:

A total of 506 Police1 readers answered this Police1 poll as of 1/9/2022.
A total of 506 Police1 readers answered this Police1 poll as of 1/9/2022.

Read our columnists’ take on this issue and share your opinion.

The ground rules: As in an actual debate, the pro and con sides are assigned randomly as an exercise in critical thinking and analyzing problems from different perspectives.

Our debaters: Jim Dudley, a 32-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department where he retired as deputy chief of the Patrol Bureau, and Chief Joel Shults, EdD, who retired as chief of police in Colorado.

Jim Dudley: I am steadfastly against the idea of legal supervised drug injection sites anywhere in America.  This is the latest example of a social experiment with deadly consequences and a major threat to the rest of those who are not active intravenous drug users. 

Harm reduction policies are often created with the knowledge that a harmful or illegal behavior may be adjusted to reduce harm. Safe injection sites seem to be encouraging rather than discouraging the illegal use of intravenous drugs. In this case, it creates a “normalization” of illegal and harmful drug use. 

The message of a state-sanctioned “legal supervised drug injection site” is preposterous. We are talking about illegal drugs that are harmful and addictive at the federal level and in most states in America today.  We are at a record-breaking pace over the past few years of overdose deaths across the country, with over 700 recorded in San Francisco alone in 2020.

The research so far is inconclusive at best as to whether drug injection sites create positive or negative results. We have seen catastrophic events over the past few years of other social experiments regarding de-funding the police, bail reform and decriminalization of crime statutes.

In the vein of drug use (pun somewhat intended), free needle programs that give out free syringes for drug injections have reduced the widespread diseases associated with the use of shared “dirty needles” among users. But when the details are examined, with so many needles given out (approximately 4.5 million per year) not nearly the same amount are returned, with dirty needles showing up on our nation’s streets, in doorways, at parks and other public spaces. As a result, another $1 million in San Francisco’s budget for example is reserved for needle pick-ups from public areas. I’m not sure where any sort of “prevention” aspects come from the free supplies given at needle exchanges, where verbiage states:

We provide safer injection supplies like cookers, cotton (small and large), alcohol wipes, sani hands, sterile water, saline, tourniquets (both latex and non-latex), and vitamin C. You can also get safer smoking supplies like aluminum foil, pipe covers and brillo, wound care and medical supplies like gauze, medical tape, hot hands (instant hot compress), Band-Aids, saline and triple antibiotic ointment.”

Joel Shults: Jim, you use the phrase “social experiment” to describe safe injection sites. We’ve been experimenting with a lot of things for over 100 years.

The federal government enacted its first drug regulation with the 1914 Harrison Act, which means we’ve been trying to control drug use for 108 years. In 1875, San Francisco attempted to regulate opium dens. The 1920s saw a brief experiment with banning alcohol. The successes of prohibition are overshadowed by its failure. During the 1950s, federal sentences were increased, including the death penalty for selling heroin to minors. The social upheavals of the 1960s saw debates favoring legalization vs. harsher penalties. The 1970s saw Nixon’s war on drugs declaring drugs “public enemy number one.” His recommended legislation included prevention and treatment, but that part got little attention. The 1980s saw the crack cocaine epidemic associated with the rise in violent crime that had spilled into suburbia from the inner city. The 1990s saw a ramping up of law enforcement and a building boom in prisons. Mandatory minimum sentences and racial disparity in sentencing attracted attention in the new century. In recent years the decriminalization of drugs, particularly marijuana, defied federal law and the Obama administration chose not to fight it.

The point of this little history lesson is to ask what have we accomplished in the 100+ years of trying to keep people drug-free? Can we rely on law enforcement and the courts to accomplish this goal? Maybe a strategy to keep people alive long enough to maintain the hope of recovery isn’t so wild after all.

Jim Dudley: Joel, I agree with the idea of keeping America “drug-free” is an impossibility. However, with respect to the 100 years of social experimenting – except for the horrendous alcohol prohibition policy from 1919-1933 – we have made some policy moves to keep drug abuse issues from going off the rails, as we have seen since the end of the “drug war” where we turned the keys to the car over to public health. 

Advocates and proponents of drugs have moved from “compassionate use” to de-criminalization to recreational and now, as we have seen in Oregon, to full on legalization. The normalization of drug use, from marijuana to federal schedule 1 hallucinogens and opiates, has created an explosion of overdose deaths as never seen before. Property crimes may be attributable to the trend to decriminalize as well.

Whenever people talk about legalization, I always ask if we will be giving drugs away for free as well. An unknown number of auto and home burglaries are certainly perpetrated by those with serious drug abuse and addiction issues. 

One aspect of the injection sites is that drug testing will be done. An individual walks in with their street drug and has it tested before use. It is unclear what will happen when the drug tests for high amounts of fentanyl or other dangerous substances. Will the sample be destroyed? Be given back with additional naloxone on hand? Will “clean” drugs then be substituted? 

There’s also the matter of the target audience who will be using injection sites. They are often homeless, drug-addicted and many suffering from mental illness. Does this cater to their addiction, in hopes of saving their lives, only to continue down their self-destructive path?

I also wonder what effect the city and state-sponsored injection sites (illegal by federal standards) will have on the public and impressionable youth, in particular. The message is a muddy one, to be sure, and a mixed one that says “drugs are bad and harmful, but not to worry, we will make it safe for your consumption.”

In reading studies on the viability and possible consequences of a “legal injection” site in America, the ones I have read are speculative, since there is only one currently in America today. We do not compare with other nations that may have different laws, cultures, resources and attitudes. We have seen the toll on lives and families with the harm reduction attitudes, policies and programs in cities where misery and blight are often accompanying consequences. Let’s not add to the problems.

Joel Shults: I think a good argument for harm reduction is harm reduction for the population at large. A decade of experience in 120 locations across 10 countries can’t be ignored. Their reports show less drug paraphernalia litter in neighborhoods, fewer overdose fatalities, and reduced disturbances related to drug use and sales. The centers provide access to intervention programs, as well as reduce HIV and drug-related sexual encounters.

There’s no question that the concept makes us a little queasy, kind of like hearing a parent give up and let their teenagers drink and party in the basement because “at least we know where they are.” I’m not much more enthusiastic about that than I am about safe injection sites. It smells of giving up. However, it will be the numbers that prove any results.

I hope that data on more than just overdose deaths are measured, such as the use of treatment programs, neighborhood safety and eventual reduction in demand. Might work, might not, but on balance, it’s probably worth trying.

POLICE1 READERS RESPOND

  • An addict who wants an immediate “fix” will pay little to no attention to a specific location where they can use. San Francisco already has a safe injection site, called the Tenderloin. An addict here will not look for a location to use “safely” when they can use on the street without penalty or consequence. There are droves of individuals, including officers, armed with naloxone (Narcan) who have administered it countless times.  Until the rules of engagement change and addicts may be mandated into treatment before they get to the irrevocable state of “gravely” disabled (from which it is extremely difficult if not impossible to recover), there will be no solution to the problem.
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Homicides Fall 26 Percent to Pre-COVID Levels in St. Louis

By Erin Heffernan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Shared on Police1.com

 

St. Louis police Chief John Hayden’s phone lights up — day or night — when there’s a homicide in the city.

Heading into 2021, after the city had seen a history-making surge in murders in 2020, the chief was bracing for another year with his phone abuzz with bad news.

But sometime last spring, the surge began to wane.

St. Louis criminal homicides fell about 26% last year — to 195 from 263 in 2020. That returned the city’s total to near its average in the five years before 2020. In each of those years, the city’s homicide rate led the nation’s big cities.

Still, 2021 moved in the right direction. For that, Hayden is thankful, he told the Post-Dispatch this week.

“That surge was definitely noticeable. I had a lot of sleepless nights.”

Meanwhile, St. Louis County police — the area’s next-largest law enforcement agency — investigated about 28% more murders last year within the department’s jurisdiction, which covers more than a third of the county. The 55 killings marked the most in the county police jurisdiction since at least 1984, according to department and FBI crime data.

There were an average of 36 homicides in the same area in the previous five years.

St. Louis County police Sgt. John Wall, of the robbery and homicide investigations unit, said personal feuds, domestic killings and the prevalence of guns may be driving that trend.

“There’s parts of North County where just about everybody over 12 has access to a gun,” Wall said. “So that’s part of the problem.”

Comprehensive law enforcement data on homicides for the entire county is not available, as many of the more than 55 police agencies in the county have not submitted final totals to the Missouri Highway Patrol, which compiles the state’s crime stats.

But there were at least 89 killings in the county in 2021, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s homicide tracker, which launched online this week and is derived from news coverage of killings in the region.

That compares with 114 murders reported countywide in 2020, and an average of 78 annually in the five years before that, according to Missouri Highway Patrol police data.

THE CITY DROP

St. Louis fared better than many other large cities in 2021.

Homicide totals returned to pre-pandemic levels here, while other big-city departments saw killings continue to rise following the 2020 spike.

The warmest months, which typically spark the most homicides, drove the city’s drop. From May through August last year, the city’s murder count fell by more than half to 63, compared with 136 in 2020.

Hayden said his department’s work targeting the most violent areas and people, as well as an easing of some desperation and anxiety caused by the pandemic, may be factors behind the reduction in murders.

“I think they’ll be studying that for a long time, but that’s at least one explanation,” he said.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones told the Post-Dispatch in an interview that changes her administration made in policing have moved the city’s homicide totals in the right direction.

Her public safety director, former St. Louis police chief Dan Isom, introduced new policing strategies over the summer, adding more officers on duty during high crime times and in areas where crime was spiking.

The department continued to support the “Cops and Clinicians” program launched by previous Mayor Lyda Krewson’s administration in January 2021. The program puts mental health professionals in police cars with St. Louis officers to provide resources to people in crisis at crime scenes. The program has logged more than 3,700 interactions since it was launched, according to city data.

The mayor has said the goal of the program is to improve community relationships with police and help defuse crises before they escalate to violence.

“I’ve said over and over and over again that this is an all-hands-on-deck effort that is going to take everybody doing their part, not only in law enforcement, but also in the community,” Jones said. She added: “But again, one homicide is one too many. We know that we have a long way to go.”

This year, Jones said, her administration plans to dedicate $5 million to expand Cure Violence, a violence-reduction program that hires people from high-crime areas to works as “interrupters.” They help people to find jobs and get other support while also de-escalating conflicts before guns are drawn.

Neighborhoods for the expansion have not yet been selected, Jones said. The program launched in 2020 and is operating in parts of five neighborhoods: Walnut Park East, Walnut Park West, Hamilton Heights, Wells-Goodfellow and Dutchtown.

Overall, homicides have dropped in the Cure Violence neighborhoods. Totals from all areas went from 54 in 2019, to 55 in 2020 and 30 in 2021.

CASES CLEARED

The homicide rate wasn’t the only improvement in the city in 2021.

Reports of violent crimes — homicides, manslaughter, rape and aggravated assaults — were down about 11% overall in the city through October compared with 2020, according to the most recent available data published by St. Louis police. City police changed systems for tracking crime statistics in 2021, but the Bureau of Criminal Justice Statistics found the change should typically account for about a 1% increase in violent crime totals.

St. Louis police also registered the department’s highest murder clearance rate since 2012.

City police had a clearance rate of 55% last year. That puts St. Louis on par with the national average of about 54% of homicide cases cleared, according to FBI statistics. In 2020, the city’s rate was just 36%.

Clearance rates divide the number of homicides in a year by the cases cleared that year, regardless of what year the solved cases occurred. That means the high number of unsolved homicides in 2020 could contribute to the higher clearance rate in 2021.

Fifteen cases in which police made an arrest but St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner’s office declined to file charges in 2021 are included in the 108 homicides considered cleared by police.

Hayden said he thinks improved cooperation from witnesses helped the department close more homicide cases.

“We’re getting seemingly more cooperation with folks that are telling us more information,” he said. “And so again, I think that all goes toward showing that the relationship between the community and the police is improving, when people are willing to share more.”

Average caseloads for homicide detectives also fell in the city from 10 each in 2020, to eight in 2021. Hayden redirected the department’s six gang unit detectives to help homicide investigators this year to ease the workload, he said.

Since 2016, St. Louis homicide detectives had handled an average of nine to 13 cases a year, far higher than the three to six recommended by policing experts, the Post-Dispatch reported in 2021.

Homicides in the city continue to be concentrated in north St. Louis, which encompasses eight of the nine neighborhoods with the most killings last year. About 91% of homicide victims in the city last year were Black. A gun was the sole weapon used in 95% of the killings.

Fifteen of the city’s homicide victims were younger than 17, a drop from 17 the year before.

While St. Louis trends improved, homicides were up about 6.5% through 2021 in the nation’s 99 largest cities, according to the most recent data collected by crime analyst Jeff Asher, a co-founder of AH Datalytics.

Murder was up last year in 65 of those 99 big cities.

SELF-DEFENSE CLAIMS

Within the last four years, St. Louis police have seen a jump in a category of killings not counted in the city’s criminal homicide total: self-defense.

There were 26 killings classified as justifiable by police last year. The large majority of those did not involve a law enforcement officer but rather a claim of self-defense made by a civilian, according to department data.

Before 2018, the city had averaged about seven justified homicides a year. The number increased to 10 in 2019 and 16 in 2020.

Hayden said Missouri’s self-defense and gun laws are driving the upward trend.

Over the past 15 years, the state Legislature has repealed requirements for gun permits and safety training to carry a concealed weapon. At the same time, legislators expanded legal safeguards for use of a gun in self-defense, including in 2016 removing the requirement that people attempt to back away from trouble in public before using deadly force if there is fear of bodily harm.

“People are more comfortable with making a challenge,” Hayden said. “A lot of our homicides are personal disputes and the challenge (of) self-defense is something that I think has been offered quite a bit more often.”

Adding self-defense killings into the city’s homicide count, total homicides would still have dropped 22% in 2021 from 2020.

COUNTY POLICE INCREASE

As in the city, homicides in St. Louis County are intensely concentrated to the north.

The Post-Dispatch homicide tracker found 85 of the 89 killings recorded in 2021 occurred north of Interstate 64 ( Highway 40) and more than 70% of them happened north of Interstate 70.

Wall, the county homicide sergeant, said that beyond the prevalence of guns, he thinks the rise of social media may play a role in disputes growing so heated that they end in violence.

“People are angrier. It’s getting to the point of pulling out a gun faster,” he said.

Despite the rise in killings in 2021, the county police jurisdiction’s homicide rate — about 14 murders for every 100,000 residents — remained far lower than in St. Louis. The city saw about 65 murders for every 100,000 residents last year.

The Post-Dispatch homicide tracker shows county homicides in 2021 clustered in communities near the city.

Police leaders acknowledged an increasing number of crimes spanning the city-county border when they launched a pilot program in 2020 to combine efforts in Jennings in the county and the city’s Walnut Park West neighborhood.

“Crime doesn’t know geographical boundaries, which is why it’s in the region’s best interest to address public safety together,” then-Mayor Krewson said at the time.

About 80% of 2021 homicides investigated by St. Louis County police by early December were committed with a firearm.

In recent years, Wall said a new category of cases has emerged with parents charged after their young children were killed or seriously injured through contact with the drug fentanyl.

Parents were charged with exposing their young children to fentanyl in at least four cases in St. Louis County last year, including at least one homicide. One-year-old Emya Woods died in August from fentanyl exposure.

County homicide detectives handled an average caseload of 10 to 12 cases each, and their clearance rate was high — 96%, according to department statistics.

“We put in an extreme amount of hours. That’s what people don’t understand the most,” Wall said. “These guys are canceling vacations, missing off days, missing birthdays. You work until the work is done.”

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Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report Released 2021 Was Deadliest Year for Law Enforcement Officers in History

The number of law enforcement professionals nationwide who died in the line of duty in 2021 increased 55% over the previous year, according to preliminary data provided by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), the leading authority on officer fatalities.

NLEOMF announced in its official 2021 Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report that as of December 31, 2021, 458 federal, state, county, municipal, military, campus, tribal, and territorial officers died in the line of duty during the past year, representing a 55% increase over the 295 officers who died in the line of duty in 2020. In the category of “Other” causes, which includes 301 Covid-19-related deaths, the number of fatalities is 338, an increase of 63% over 2020’s line-of-duty fatalities in this category.

“This time of year always reminds us of the sacrifice of law enforcement and the importance of our mission to honor the fallen, tell the story of American law enforcement, and make it safer for those who serve. The year 2021 will go down as the year of the most line-of-duty fatalities since 1930 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and increases in traffic fatalities and firearms ambushes,” said National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund CEO Marcia Ferranto.

Most significant in the 2021 Fatalities Report are the number of officer deaths in the category of “other” causes, which increased 63% over the number of deaths from other causes in 2020 due to officers who died from contracting Covid-19 in the line of duty.

In addition to the 301 Covid-19 deaths, 37 officers died from other causes, including 25 officers who died in the line of duty from health-related illnesses, such as heart attacks, strokes, and 9/11-related illnesses. In addition, 4 officers were beaten, and 4 officers drowned in 2021. There were 2 officers stabbed to death, 1 was killed when their patrol vehicle was swept away by floodwaters, and 1 was killed in a tornado.

Firearms-Related Fatalities

Firearms-related fatalities claimed the lives of 62 officers in 2021, a 38% increase compared to the 45 officers killed in firearms-related incidents in 2020.

Of the 62 firearms fatalities:

  • 19 were ambushed and killed
  • 8 were investigating suspicious activities or persons
  • 7 were attempting an arrest
  • 7 were killed responding to domestic disturbance calls, which led to a tactical situation and an ambush
  • 7 were disturbance calls, which led to a tactical situation
  • 3 were killed during traffic enforcement, which led to an ambush
  • 3 were fatally shot responding to burglary or robbery in-progress calls
  • 3 involved drug-related investigations
  • 2 were killed during tactical encounters
  • 2 were inadvertently and accidentally shot and killed
  • 1 was killed during an encounter with a suicidal subject.

Traffic-Related FatalitieTraffic-related fatalities increased 38% with 58 deaths in 2021 compared to 42 deaths in 2020.

Of the 58 traffic-related deaths:

    • 19 were automobile crashes involving a collision with another vehicle or fixed object
    • 9 were single-vehicle crashes
    • 27 were struck-by fatalities
    • 3 officers have been killed in motorcycle crashes

Top 6 States with the Largest Number of Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities

  • Texas experienced the largest number of law enforcement officer fatalities of all U.S. states with 84 line-of-duty deaths
  • Florida had the second highest number with 52 officer deaths
  • Georgia had the third highest number with 39 officer deaths
  • California had the fourth highest number with 24 officer deaths
  • North Carolina had the fifth highest number with 21 officer deaths
  • Tennessee had the sixth highest number with 18 officer deaths

In addition, 45 federal officers, 7 territorial officers, and 3 tribal officers died in the line of duty this year. Only 10 states and the District of Columbia did not lose an officer this year.

There were 417 male officers killed in the line of duty, and 41 female officers. The average age of the fallen officers is 48, with 17 years of service. On average, officers left behind two children.

There are currently 22,611 names of officers killed in the line of duty inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, dating back to the first known death in 1786. The deadliest year on record for law enforcement was 1930 when 312 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty.

The statistics released are based on preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 2022.

NLEOMF CEO Marcia Ferranto and Troy Anderson, Executive Director of Officer Safety and Wellness, addressed the public via Livestream at 8:00am Eastern today, January 11, about the findings. To watch the Livestream, tune into the NLEOMF Facebook page or watch on YouTube.

For a complete copy of the 2021 Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report, go to: LawMemorial.org/FatalitiesReport.

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2021 Year-End Fatality Report to Release January 11, 2022

This year, hundreds of names were engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, bringing the total to 22,611 officers killed in the line of duty. Photo courtesy of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund NLEOMF.org

 

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced that its proprietary 2021 Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report, which will encapsulate the data and causes surrounding line-of-duty deaths in 2021, will release on Tuesday morning, January 11. When released, the report is expected to show that Covid-related line-of-duty deaths display a marked increase over the same period in 2020. In addition, struck-by traffic deaths, officer ambushes, and firearms fatalities also increased over 2020.

NLEOMF CEO Marcia Ferranto and Executive Director of Officer Safety and Wellness, Troy Anderson, will be addressing the community via Livestream at 8:00am Eastern on January 11 about the findings. To watch the Livestream, tune into the NLEOMF Facebook page or watch on YouTube.

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Webinar Agitated Subjects & Ketamine: Working Together to Enhance Safety

Several incidents have made headlines involving EMS administration of ketamine following an interaction between the patient and law enforcement. At least one of these incidents involves criminal charges against EMS personnel.

While ketamine administration is not warranted in most interactions between law enforcement and resisting subjects, it remains a valuable, lifesaving tool for certain agitated subjects in order to facilitate further medical evaluation. Join our panel of experts to learn what public safety agencies can do to mitigate the risk involved with prehospital ketamine use, prevent harm to patients, and develop shared understanding across fire, EMS and law enforcement. 

In this webinar, set for noon Central (1 p.m. Eastern) January 18, 2022 you’ll learn:

  • Legal trends associated with prehospital ketamine use
  • Key findings from an ESO study involving more than 14,000 ketamine administrations, including the importance of post-administration monitoring
  • The role and limitations of law enforcement in such incidents and the latest guidance from national EMS organizations about the law enforcement-to-EMS handoff
  • The necessity of cross-agency (fire, EMS and law enforcement) communication, training and policy development for handling subjects that don’t respond to traditional restraint, de-escalation or use of force tactics

Register now at https://info.lexipol.com/webinar-agitated-subjects-and-ketamine

Registration is free. Can’t make it? Register anyway and we’ll send you a recording after the event.  Questions? Contact Us.

Webinar sponsored by LEXIPOL

Presented by:

Brent Myers, MD, MPH, FACEP, FAEMS
Chief Medical Officer, ESO
President, National Association of EMS Physicians

Mike Ranalli
Program Manager, Lexipol
Chief (Ret.), Glenville (NY) Police Department
Curt Varone
Deputy Chief, Exeter (RI) Fire Department
Attorney and Author, Fire Law Blog
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Dec 2, 2022: 90th Anniversary of One of Bloodiest Days in Law Enforcement History

From the Greene County Sheriff’s Office
It is ultimately our responsibility to maintain the memory of those who gave their last full measure of devotion, losing their lives in service of the public. Their names are etched in stone and memorialized at the Greene County Courthouse, and in decals on a number of marked Greene County patrol vehicles.
 
Today marks the 90th anniversary of the bloodiest day in modern law enforcement history, excluding the terrorist attacks of September 11. On January 2, 1932, six law enforcement officers were murdered in a gunfight with Harry and Jennings Young, outside their house near Brookline, Missouri.
 
Police had arrested Young family members with a stolen vehicle and believed the wanted brothers, Harry and Jennings Young were visiting their mother in the area. Harry Young was wanted for the 1929 murder of Republic Marshal Mark Noe and the brothers were wanted for operating a stolen auto ring. Before the day was over, the brothers would be responsible for the murder of six more law enforcement officers.
 
Sheriff Marcell Hendrix gathered three of his deputies for the arrest team, Ollie Crosswhite, Wiley Mashburn, and Ben Bilyeau. They were in turn joined by Springfield Chief of Detectives Tony Oliver and Officers Owen Brown, Virgil Johnson, and Frank Pike, Sidney Meadows and Charley Houser and a citizen by the name of R.G. Wegman.
 
The arrest team arrived at the Young farm at approximately 4:00 pm. Detective Johnson fired a tear gas canister into an upstairs window with no noticeable effect. The officers took positions around the residence and Sheriff Hendrix, accompanied by Deputy Mashburn and Detective Johnson, approached a back door to the residence.
 
Sheriff Hendrix and Deputy Mashburn forced the door open. Deputy Mashburn was met with a shotgun blast to the face causing him to fall backwards into a stack of firewood. Sheriff Hendrix advanced through the doorway only to be met with second shotgun blast to the chest. Detective Johnson then ran to the front of the residence and took cover amongst the cars seeking shelter from a gunfire emanating from the house.
 
Chief Oliver called out to Detective Johnson to drive back to Springfield for reinforcements. Detective Johnson jumped into a car and was joined by Bilyeau and Wegman. The rear glass of their vehicle was shot out as they drove away from the farm.
 
Deputy Crosswhite was pinned down by gunfire and took refuge behind a sod cellar. Officer Houser, who had sought cover behind a tree was shot between the eyes with a high powered rifle when he looked from behind cover.
 
Deputy Meadows was also hiding behind a tree and was out of ammunition when he was struck in the forehead by rifle fire.
 
Chief Oliver attempted to run to the vehicles and fell, receiving a fatal gunshot wound in the back. Detective Brown fled north from the house and joined Detective Pike behind a tree. They fled eastbound from the house to safety sustaining minor gunshot wounds.
 
Deputy Crosswhite was still maintaining his position of cover behind the sod cellar when one of the suspects approached him from behind and shot him in the back of the head with a shotgun. When officers returned to the farm with reinforcements they discovered the six deceased officers at the scene and that the suspects had escaped.
 
Harry and Jennings Young were subsequently located in Texas by Houston Police. On January 5, 1932, acting on a tip from a bed and breakfast owner, police stormed the house. A shootout broke out in hail of gunfire. The Youngs were trapped in a bathroom where the two brothers committed suicide.
 
Sheriff Hendrix had known the Young family, both living in the same area and attending the same church as the elder Youngs. Sheriff Hendrix’ wife, Maude S. Hendrix (1858-1952), was appointed to complete his unfinished term as sheriff. His son, Glenn Hendrix (1911-1967), served as a Springfield, Missouri officer then as Greene County Sheriff from 1949 to 1964.
 
Interred: Eastlawn Cemetery.
Deputy Mashburn was survived by his wife, Maude. Interred: Eastlawn Cemetery.
 
Deputy Crosswhite had served in law enforcement for 10 years He served as constable in Polk county for five years, as Ash Grove city marshal for two years and as Greene County Deputy Sheriff for three years. He was survived by his wife, Ethel, four sons, two daughters and his mother. Interred: Brighton Cemetery, Brighton, Missouri.
 
Detective Chief Oliver was survived by his wife, Maud. Chief Oliver had been with the agency for 26 years and had served as Chief of Detective for two years. He was survived by his wife, three daughters and two sons, one of who would later serve as deputy sheriff of Greene County. Interred: Hazelwood Cemetery.
 
Detective Meadows had been with the agency for four years and was survived by his wife, Lillie, and three step-children. Interred: Eastlawn Cemetery, Springfield, Missouri.
 
Officer Houser was survived by his wife, Augusta, and brother, Fred.
Interred: Forest Park, Cemetery, Joplin, MO.
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Operation Survival NY2022: Key Tips for Staying Safe in the New Year

By Warren Wilson for Police1.com

Well, 2021 certainly was another challenging year. There’s no reason to think 2022 will be any easier. We should probably hope for the best while preparing for the status quo.

I suggest a two-pronged approach to surviving 2022: safety and peace of mind. Over the past year, we’ve given the reader items or activities that we believe are good investments of your money or your time.

The following is a blended list of things we believe will help you get the new year started off right.  

The author strongly believes hobbies are the key to emotional fitness for law enforcement officers.
The author strongly believes hobbies are the key to emotional fitness for law enforcement officers. (Photo/Warren Wilson)

PHYSICAL SAFETY

Traditional officer safety is well covered elsewhere. I’d like to address some unconventional aspects of safety for law enforcement officers working in today’s world.

The first recommendation is an investment in your physical health. The average age of heart attack for the general population is 67 years of age. For career law enforcement officers, that number is 49. Since we are many more times more likely to die from heart disease than a line of duty death, my first suggestion is a gym membership. This requires a small investment in time and money, but your most precious asset is your heartbeat.  

Police 1 resource: How to maintain adequate LEO physical fitness

FINANCIAL SAFETY

The vilification of law enforcement hasn’t only threatened the physical safety of law enforcement officers but also our financial security. Bills have been introduced in various jurisdictions around the country to cut police retirements, end qualified immunity and rob funds from agencies that would and have resulted in layoffs.

Like your physical health, your financial health is also in jeopardy. Law enforcement retirement plans are complicated and since most of us who are on a pension plan are not allowed to participate in social security (no matter how much we contributed prior to our cop careers), we need financial expertise from someone who understands law enforcement retirement plans.

Police1 resource: Your pension plan shouldn’t be your only retirement plan

HOME SAFETY 

It’s difficult to focus on your own safety while at work when you’re worried about your family at home. I suggest you spend a little time and money on your home’s physical security.

Many of these improvements come at little or no cost. For example, replacing the screws in your deadbolt lock from what comes with the unit to three-inch versions will vastly increase your security for a matter of pennies.

The days of spending thousands on a monitored alarm/surveillance system for your home are all but over. There are many Internet-based options that will protect your entire home for a fraction of the cost. The one I use allows me to add sensors and cameras one at a time if I wish, which gives me the financial flexibility to build the system over time.

Police1 resource: 6 steps to making your home your castle

HOME PREPAREDNESS

Ensuring your family is set up for emergency preparedness is a must. While most folks are sent home from their jobs during a catastrophe, cops don’t have that luxury. In fact, we are more likely to be required to be at work for long periods of time after a disaster; be it natural or manmade.

Ready.Gov and FEMA have some helpful information on how to achieve preparedness and even a downloadable PDF guide. Get informed and be prepared so you can worry less about what’s going on at home while you’re on the front line of your jurisdiction’s next disaster.  

EMOTIONAL SAFETY

I believe the first step to emotional safety and fitness is turning work off at the door. For me, that means not watching the news. There’s no way to avoid the big stories, of course, but there’s nothing in the national news cycle that gives me hope or peace of mind. Engage in hobbies that have nothing to do with your job. It doesn’t matter if it’s horseback riding, hiking, driving trails, running or whatever. Just find something that gets your mind off your work.

My next suggestion is to turn off negativity. Avoid conversations about all the terrible things about your work, whether on the local or national level. There is solid research that indicates the more negative thoughts you engage in, the more negative you’ll feel long-term. Focus on the positives in your life and at your work. And don’t be afraid to seek mental health assistance occasionally, even if you’re feeling well.   

Police1 resource: Why your off-duty life is important for stress management   

QUALITY OF LIFE

We really don’t have much control over what New Year 2022 will bring. We do, however, have control over how it affects us and our quality of life. Happy New Year, brothers and sisters.

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Why the Little Things are BIG in Corrections

When it comes to communicating with inmates, officers and administrators should always pay attention to the small issues.

By Craig Gottschalk for Corrections1.com

Most people are trained and experienced in dealing with the “big” issues impacting their lives and careers, while their acumen or capacity to address the “little” things seem quite challenged. This is never more evident than in the world of corrections. Whether at the administrative level or during the day-to-day actions of corrections officers on the floor, the “little” things tend to trip up officers and administrators the most.

When it comes to communicating with inmates, officers and administrators should always pay attention to the small issues.

Here are three rules to follow:

Never indicate to an inmate you will do something but not follow through.
Never indicate to an inmate you will do something but not follow through. (Photo/Corrections1)

1. NEVER INDICATE YOU WILL DO SOMETHING BUT NOT FOLLOW THROUGH

This could be as simple as saying you will get an inmate a bar of soap and doing it. Never force an inmate to repeatedly ask the next two shifts to complete a task you had “promised” to fulfill. If you say you will do something, the inmate perceives this as a contract you will personally follow up on. To not do so can create animosity that may never be overcome.

2. NEVER IGNORE THE MINOR VIOLATIONS

Do not look past the little things, or minor violations that can occur in hopes they will go away, or to avoid irritating inmates when an issue is addressed. Make inmates aware when you have identified a minor violation so they know it is not being ignored. Every officer has a broad latitude of options to address violations that occur, and the officer’s response will either demonstrate a level of professionalism that will be respected or incompetence that will be ridiculed forever. Avoid the “it’s nothing really bad – just inmates being inmates” mentality.

3. DOCUMENT EVEN THE LITTLEST OF THINGS

Always take the time to document inmate behaviors or actions that violate the inmate handbook and how the behavior was addressed. Officers hear all the time, “If it is not documented, it did not occur.” This is true with the larger violations and should be the same with minor inmate disciplinary actions and responses.  

Rarely will an officer’s response and warnings to minor violations or the little issues that occur create an escalated or physical inmate attack. The officer will though need to bear the weight and agitated or aggressive verbal responses from inmates airing their displeasure of an officer holding high expectations for inmate behavior.

Inmates will try to place a wedge between officers addressing the little things by saying “no one else does that” or “don’t be such a hardass” (or more disrespectful expletives). They may dial up their manipulative tactics by claiming they will grieve the officer’s actions or discipline. Administrators must ensure their officers trust the grievance process to protect and support their actions.

There may even be feigned attack approaches and aggressive posturing to save face among fellow inmates. This is the dance that officers must learn to analyze and respond to daily. An officer’s ability to “read” these observations and develop an understanding of the individual inmates’ personalities and then balance that with the unit or pod dynamics to maintain control and security in a unit is paramount. 

Officers and administrators must throttle back responding physically and outwardly toward inmates behaving badly. Stepping back and quickly analyzing what truly is occurring and the risks present and then formulating the immediate response and how to package it for presentation to inmates is an art. Each inmate may require a unique strategy to de-escalate and address the misbehavior.

I cannot overemphasize the value humor and sarcasm can play in a corrections setting. Officers who can address inmate attitudes and misbehavior with a light heart and obvious sarcasm will educate and mold inmate behaviors quicker and with more long-term effects than oral tirades and immediate application of restraint responses. The resulting inmate population’s respect for and appreciation of that officer’s uniform, presence and authority will increase.    

I encourage all officers and administrators to look inwardly and assess our “go to” responses to challenging inmate behaviors and rule violations. Determine if you look past the little things and only respond once violations have attained a certain level – or if you address what you observe each time – in order to create an understanding of the behavioral expectations each inmate should adhere to and expect to be held to.

Consistency is the dream. Inmates crave it throughout their days in our facilities. Let’s ensure we meet their expectations. If so, the behavior will generally follow the expectations presented.  

 A senior officer once told me, during my first weeks of training as a CO, “Focus on the little – respond to the large.” No truer guidance have I ever heard.

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