Minneapolis Police K-9 Unit

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Dogs are loveable, unfailingly loyal, and smart. And they can be much more than man’s best friend.

For the Minneapolis Police Department and other forces across the country, dogs can be a valuable asset in helping to keep our city safe.

The K-9 unit has been a supplement to the Minneapolis police force since 1971, and Sergeant Andy Stender has been with the unit since 1997.

The goal of the K-9 unit, Stender says, “is to supplement the precinct officers. They do most of the hard work.”

The officers of the K-9 unit, of which there are currently 15, are each paired with a dog. Not only do the dogs work with their assigned officer, but they go home with them as well. It is the responsibility of the officer to ensure that the dogs perform. Sgt. Stender says these dogs become “part of the family”, because officers “spend more time with them than anyone else.”

Not just any dog can become a trained police dog, however. And the ones that do don’t get chosen for reasons you may think.

Sgt. Stender says certain dogs aren’t chosen because they are territorial or because they have a tendency to nip at the postman. He wouldn’t want a police dog like that.

“It takes a special dog,” he says. Confidence and a play drive are key for a potential K9. He doesn’t want a dog that will bite anyone. Instead, he wants a dog that will bite when it’s supposed to, and will bite for the right reasons.

And not just any breed can become a certified police dog. In the Minneapolis Police K-9 unit, there are currently three different breeds of dogs: German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Malinaus.

Dogs then begin their training process when they are about a year old. They need to mature a bit before they can start. They initially take part in a 12-week basic course, including instruction in tracking and apprehension. K-9 unit dogs are trained to participate in basic patrol work, as well as narcotics or explosive detection.

Although the dogs “graduate” from the course, training is ongoing, and officers are continuously teaching them.

The length of service for each dog varies, depending on their genetics and any health problems that may arise. It is important to understand that dogs aren’t perfect, and make mistakes just like humans do. They have their good days and bad days, just like everyone else.

Sgt. Stender has seen changes over the years in his work with the K-9 unit, particularly in the way the dogs are trained, how they are deployed, and how everything has to be documented. But for him, the most rewarding aspect of his job is when his dog helps find the guy that the precinct officers need to find- the guy that got away. “That’s awesome,” he says.

The police officers aren’t the only ones who are passionate about the dogs. There are groups of dog-loving volunteers who donate time and resources to helping the K-9 unit.

The Police K-9 Foundation is a group of people that love dogs, and raise money to buy dogs, to buy equipment, and send the dogs to training. Sgt. Stender says the money they raise is a huge supplement to the funds provided by the city, and the unit wouldn’t be where they are without the Foundation. Dogs cost between $6 and $7 thousand, and the Foundation has bought 3 to 4. To get involved with the Foundation or to learn more about it, go to http://www.mplspolicek9foundation.org/

The Police K9 INvest Project is made up of volunteers who raise money to buy bulletproof vests for the dogs. Believe it or not, vests cost about $2,200 a piece. For more information about the INvest Project check out their Facebook page, and donate here: http://www.mplspolicek9foundation.org/support-the-unit/.

Visit the K-9 Foundation Facebook page to learn more about the dogs and see what they are up to!