TUPD to receive second K9 unit in January

The department is training another police dog that can apprehend suspects, work in crowd control during campus events and detect explosives.

Temple Police Officer Natalie Sherman and K9 unit Chandler have worked together for seven years. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

In January, the Temple University Police Department will welcome two-year-old German Shepard Falko as the department’s second K9 unit. 

TUPD’s K9 units serve both a highly specialized safety role and as an avenue for community outreach with students and the surrounding North Philadelphia neighborhood, said Jennifer Griffin, vice president of public safety.

“The dogs are just as important as an outreach tool for the community as they are for providing an emotional support dog to our officers,” Griffin said. “You can’t help but smile when you engage with them.”

Falko is currently being trained at the Philadelphia Police Department Academy in a similar specialization to TUPD’s current K9 unit, nine-year-old Chandler, who was cross-trained in finding explosives and assisting in apprehensions. Chandler’s deployment is also necessary when any suspicious packages are found, in case of explosives, or if a suspect is in hiding.

While Chandler is healthy, he’s likely to retire by the end of 2024 due to his age. Temple Police Officer Natalie Sherman believes Chandler and Falko have a “little brother, older brother” relationship, she said.

Chandler is present at every event that takes place at The Liacouras Center as security. The dogs are trained to sit to indicate a threat, informing officers there may be an explosive inside the package or elsewhere in the vicinity.

Sherman, a 10-year member of the department, has worked with Chandler, originally a service dog for the blind, for the last seven years. 

K9 unit Chandler is trained to detect explosives and assist with apprehensions and crowd control. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

“Luckily, we don’t have to use our dogs every single day when it comes to finding somebody, or a weapon, or explosives,” Sherman said. “But every day Chandler is with me. He’s my partner. So he works just as much as I do and the other officers.”

Aside from the value that K9s bring to the department’s operations, they can also be a source of community outreach and relations, Griffin said.

“[Chandler] loves to be petted by the students, Falko’s the same thing,” Griffin said. “So they’re great ways for our officers to engage with students who maybe are a little bit apprehensive about engaging with a police officer, but the dogs just pull people in.”

However, there’s a difference in the relationship with K9 units between white and non-white Americans. From 2005-13, almost 63 percent of K9 bite victims in America were Hispanic or Black, according to a December 2018 report from the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine.

Police dogs have also historically been used against non-white Americans since the K9 unit’s official introduction during the beginning of the civil rights movement in 1956, according to American Quarterly.

“If the dog is out on foot patrol on campus, out doing their patrols, we want them to be friendly,” Griffin said. “So I think yes, any tool that law enforcement has can be used incorrectly and that’s why policies, training [and] selection of the right officers is so important.”

K9 units in America are typically selected for their strength, aggression and sense of smell. Most are male and unneutered to retain their natural testosterone levels and aggression. 

The department mainly considers temperament when selecting police dogs. The dog has to be child-friendly and well-behaved in a crowd, but protective of their handlers and police vehicles, Griffin said.

Using K9 units in apprehensions usually creates a situation where both the dog and suspect are likely to be hurt, said Marie Ann Schiavone, a law professor at Duquesne University and author of “K-9 Catch-22: The Impossible Dilemma Of Using Police Dogs In Apprehension Of Suspects.”

While police dogs are useful when they can minimize the threat to human life, like moving ahead in potential ambush situations or detection of ammunition or explosives, Schiavone believes K9 units should be less involved in apprehensions as they are a tactic of escalation rather than de-escalation.

“From an individual department standpoint, you’re looking at what [you are] really using that dog for,” Schiavone said. “Bomb-sniffing on a college campus, that’s probably the more primary use for the dog. That’s probably a good thing to have around because they’re going to notice something quicker than a human can. If it’s a good-tempered dog, that’s great.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.