Day in the Life of a K9 Officer
by Woodrow Aames
K9 cops advance to their careers following experience on the police force. Get qualified through online criminal justice degree programs, and become a member of this elite law enforcement team.
Doggedly Patrolling the Streets: A Day in the Life of a K9 Cop
If you've always imagined becoming a K9 cop, you're barking up the right tree. K9 cops belong to an exclusive club of law enforcement professionals. They work for city police, county sheriffs, state police, and with federal law enforcement agencies patrolling airports, seaports, and our borders with Mexico and Canada. Officers and dogs alike receive specialized law enforcement training.
A key, common requirement for applying for canine duty is the satisfactory completion of a criminal justice degree and several years of experience in any number of recognized police jobs. If you're just starting off, a great way to receive basic preparation is to enroll in an online criminal justice degree program.
Police Jobs with a Bite
Following successful completion of your law enforcement training, you should examine the application requirements for city, state, or federal police jobs--all vary by agency. Typically, new officers are shipped off to the police academy or for advanced law enforcement training by the hiring agency. Upon completion, you'll typically be assigned to a post as a uniformed officer. After two to four years of patrol experience you can apply for K9 cop openings within your agency. At that time, both you and your four-legged partner enter an intensive training program.
Working K9 officers recommend that you inform your department of your interest long before your application date to put yourself on their radar. There are relatively few applicants for an extremely limited number of openings for this police job.
Ask K9 law enforcement officers if you can ride along on their shifts. And be willing to accept a role as a "criminal decoy" during K9 training sessions. Basically, you have to know how to be an effective cop before training to become a K9 officer.
K9 Law Enforcement Training
Dogs and city police officers alike receive K9 training in the detection of narcotics, explosives, electronic devices, and cadavers. You'll learn patrol protocol, including how to track suspects, release the dog, call for backup, exchange your leash for a weapon, and bring the dog to heel after apprehension. K9 law enforcement training exercises often take time, allowing the cop and canine to build trust and confidence.
Once on the job, you may face more mundane duties, too, like cleaning out the kennel or performing routine searches of jails, prisons, public facilities (schools and recreation areas), and vehicles. You may have to be available 24 hours a day, and be able to travel on short notice.
The K9 Police Job and Its Rewards
Most K9 cops take personal satisfaction in knowing that they work for an elite corps of officers--all of whom have on-the-street experience and have passed their probationary assignments. Wages vary by city, state, and federal agency. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers earned a median annual wage of $51,410 in 2008, with the top ten percent making $79,680
If you love dogs and hate crime, you can jump start your career as a K9 cop by enrolling in one of the many online criminal justice degree programs. Go sic 'em!
Woodrow Aames has written articles and profiles for Yahoo, Microsoft Network, Microsoft Encarta, and other websites and print magazines around the world. He holds an MFA degree and has taught English abroad.