Police K9 certification trials began Monday morning in Florence. The Florence Police Department will be hosting the trials throughout the week, and 20 agencies from all over the southeast are participating.
The 31 K9 teams going through the certification course began with the evidence detection portion at the Sportsplex in Florence. The dogs had to locate a screwdriver and a shotgun shell in 30 foot by 30 foot squares of grass, some of them finding the items in under 45 seconds.
The dogs sniff for anything that doesn't smell like grass. By detecting a change in the natural environment they are able to locate the items.
Each handler trains their dog differently, so dogs give different reactions such as a bark or lying down when they find an item.
Judges then critique how long it took for the dog to do a search, and note if they were able to find all of the items.
The judges are all previous K9 handlers, so they understand what expectations to have from these dogs and make sure each K9 team is held to the same standard.
"It is vastly important. In today's society, everything that we do is under a microscope. And it's important work so without these certifications our use of force would not be reliable for each officer on the street," says Florence Police Department Captain Wes Gargis.
Police K9s are required to complete a patrol dog certification test every year. Different portions of the test include evidence detection, agility, and criminal apprehension.
The trials are open to the public, allowing people to catch a glimpse at another side of law enforcement.
"The community gets to be involved with what we're doing this week, they get to actually see firsthand how important it is for our police dogs to react to our handlers. And see the side of us that's not the enforcement side, they get to see the side of us that, hey, we're just human beings as well," says Captain Gargis.
The criminal apprehension portion of the test will take place Tuesday from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Braly stadium.