The use of a trained police canine is an effective tool in law enforcement. Although their greatest value lies in the deterring effect of their presence, the use of a canine in making an arrest is only authorized when the circumstances legally justify such use.
The canine handlers must be constantly alert to the amount of force they can legally use to make or maintain an arrest, and in determining the degree of force to be used; the handlers must take into consideration all known circumstances.
Primarily canines are assigned to each patrol shift and all are dual purpose dogs. In other words, they may be used for tracking, building searches, apprehensions, and item location (other evidence) at crime scenes which is patrol work. They are also used for scent work, locating narcotics and bombs, as the second job.
The Kingsport Police Department began using K-9s in 1968, and has the second oldest continuous K-9 force in Tennessee, behind Memphis. The KPD currently has five canines. The KPD uses the Malinois (pronounced MAL-in-wah) generally imported from Holland. They were chosen over the more famous German Shepherd because they have fewer health problems and have longer useful service lives, usually until they are 11 years old. They are also a very high-energy dog.
Dogs and handlers are carefully screened and tested prior to training. It takes 16 weeks to train the basics for a dog. In addition, each dog and handler team currently attends a 2-8 week school together in preparation for their function as a “K-9” team. This time variation depends upon the experience of the handler. Unlike some departments, KPD canines are not assigned “ranks”.
K9s often respond to commands in multiple languages such as Dutch, German and English. Generally this is the handler’s choice.
Our current officers and their partners are: Officer Billy Boyd and K-9 Reko, Officer Robbie Hughes and K-9 Kylo, Officer Travis Bates and K-9 Jimi, Officer Carrie Phillips and K-9 Whiskee, and Officer Peyton Estepp and K-9 Ghost. Reko, Kylo, Jimi, and Whiskee are all dual purpose dogs trained in Patrol and Narcotics Detection. Ghost is a single purpose dog trained exclusively in Explosives Detection. In 2008, after years of sharing training facilities with other local departments, Kingsport now has its own K9 training facility off of West Stone Drive, most of which was donated by the Kingsport Kennel Club, a local canine club.