The St. Petersburg Police Department's K-9 officers are assigned to the Uniform Services Bureau. Their primary mission is to provide K-9 support for officers of the police department.
The K-9 Unit is comprised of a sergeant, K-9 trainer and an authorized strength of 12 K-9 officers. Officers selected to become K-9 handlers must complete a 16-week school with their K-9 partners.
K-9 activities include:
- Building Searches - Searches of commercial businesses are conducted by one canine team. A team consists of one handler and his or her canine. Using the dog's sense of smell and speed is a more tactically sound method of locating a suspect who is hiding inside a building. This practice minimizes the risk to officers and affords a suspect more incentive to surrender. The sound of a bark is often times all it takes.
- Article Searches - Article searches are conducted when a person has either lost or thrown an item or evidence while committing a crime. Using the dog's olfactory abilities, the canine is given an area to search and within a matter of moments the canine can locate the item, even when the area is large. Often it is more effective to deploy a canine in an area where there is poor lighting, heavy brush, or an area is too large to be searched visually.
- Tracking Searches - Tracking uses the dog's keen sense of smell to detect and follow human scent.
- Demonstrations- The K-9 Unit is active in the community not only by attempting to make the community a safer place, but also in the area of public demonstrations. The canine unit provides demonstrations year round, to both public and private school groups, as well as civic organizations. During these demonstrations, mock narcotics searches are conducted as well as basic obedience exercises, article searches, agility tests, and simulated criminal apprehension, where our "bad guy", wearing protective gear, is apprehended by the canine.