The Gainesville Police Department’s Canine (K-9) Unit is assigned to our Operations Bureau. Team members are among the most elite in all of GPD. When shootings, robberies, in progress burglaries or other hot calls are dispatched our K-9 teams are primary responders and our handlers often act as tactical resource coordinator, all while still operating their K-9. Teams are regularly utilized to; assist in criminal apprehensions, locate missing persons, detect narcotics, act as back-up, and assist with crowd control if needed.
GPD is allotted nine K-9 teams, eight of which are a part of Patrol while the last team exclusively works highway interdiction with the Alachua County Combined Drug Task Force. Each Patrol team must go through a rigorous 480 hour basic handler course which prepares them for the various and unpredictable situations they will encounter. All K-9 teams must be evaluated and certified by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) or other certifying entity before they are deemed to be patrol ready. The teams re-certify annually to ensure that they have maintained the highest level of proficiency. Handlers and their K-9 counterparts train at least 10 hours a week to prime their patrol skills.
The relationship between the handlers and their K-9 partners is unparalleled in law enforcement. Both the handler and the K-9 prepare constantly for the rigors and inherent dangers of their job. As a result a bond between the two is forged that handlers equate to that of best friend, a brother or even that of their child. Not only do they work and train together, they live together and K-9s become part of the handler’s immediate family. This relationship is the cornerstone to the unit’s success. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for a K-9 to pay the ultimate price for his handler and our community while in the line of duty.
Our K-9s are tremendous ambassadors to our community and are often seen at public events throughout the city. Much like people K-9’s themselves have very individual personalities. Some are serious some are not. Some are approachable and others are definitely not. Without the explicit knowledge and consent of a handler you should never attempt to contact a police K-9. Our K-9’s are typically purchased and imported from breeders in Europe and are chosen based on size, temperament, drive and willingness to work. Many times, GPD will receive monetary donations from local businesses and community organizations to aid in purchasing of the dogs.
Officers who are interested in becoming a K-9 Handler must meet the minimum requirements of no less than two years patrol experience, clean Internal Affairs record and good standing on yearly evaluations. They must also successfully complete a process that includes, but is not limited to, a thirteen minute 1½ mile run in work boots, negotiating a firearms course while carrying a five gallon bucket of water with one hand, a tactical scenario, a land navigation exercise through the woods and swamps of Gainesville, an obstacle course and finally an interview.
If you have further questions about the K9 unit, would like to request a community demonstration, or are interested in possibly sponsoring a K9 team, please contact:
Sergeant Charles Owens
Phone: (352) 393-7746