POLICE Magazine

MAY 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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18 | SP E C I A L R E P O RT | C R I T ICA L I NC I D E N T R E S P O N S E strate that it will perform under cir- cumstances similar to those of the critical incident and not suffer from flashbacks. A police dog that has been ex- posed to loud explosions such as that from a flash-bang needs to be proved and retested to ensure its reliability the next time it's exposed to a flash- bang-type explosion. A police dog that was sent to apprehend a suspect who then shot the dog needs to be retrained and retested to ensure that the dog will apprehend a fleeing sus- pect in the future where gunfire is being used. is is not because we would necessarily want the handler to deploy the dog in these circum- stances, but merely to ensure that should the dog be deployed in that way, it will respond in a desired and predictable manner. EXPANDED FOCUS M ore will soon be written on how to evaluate, test, and retrain the police or military dog involved in a serious incident. is article is merely designed to stimu- late this type of discussion and the need for better understanding of the working dog's involvement in a critical incident. As we employ more and more work- ing dogs to protect our communities, these dogs will also be exposed to the frontline horrors that police officers face. We need to make sure that we take care of our K-9 partners and guaran- tee that we are not sending skittish or traumatized dogs back into service. We need to focus attention on traumatic af- tereffects of our dogs as much as we are paying attention and devoting our best efforts to treating our Heroes in Blue. n Dr. David J. "Lou" Ferland is a retired New Hampshire police chief with exten- sive K-9 training experience who cur- rently serves as the national executive director of the United States Police Ca- nine Association (USPCA). He acquired his doctoral degree from Franklin Pierce University. Dr. Ferland can be reached at DavidFerlandK9@gmail.com. the training at the Academy. ere can be no short-cuts to this type of environ- mental control. Another example might be a dog that was accidentally struck by a passing car. e team of K-9 and handler should be re-exposed to traf- fic noises and moving cars in the same manner in which it was desensitized to these distractions when the K-9 was younger and first undergoing its basic training. As the dog progresses positively through its remedial training, at some point the dog and handler need to be tested under the same or similar cir- cumstances experienced during the critical incident that caused the K-9's PTSD. is remedial training involving the handler's control over the dog must be under the supervision of qualified dog trainers as well as mental health professionals to ensure that no further harm is done to the handler's mental health. But at some point and with care- ful planning the dog needs to demon- criticism of themselves. K-9 units will most likely hear criticism from members of the public and the me- dia questioning the K-9's deploy- ment. Guilt and remorse might surround the handler and affect the handler's ability to remedially train or critically evaluate the dog's future predictable performance. In this case, handlers should seek mental health treatment themselves to work through these issues. OTHERS AFFECTED P olice administrators would also be wise to remember that volunteer search-and-rescue K-9s, though not a direct part of the police department, should also be includ- ed in our management and better understanding of the K-9's critical incident recovery. ey too are oen exposed to critical incidents such as the search for and discovery of a dead child or a particularly grue- some suicide scene. And these dogs' handlers should also seek mental health treatment for their K-9s and themselves, as needed. In discussing trauma affecting K-9s, let's not forget how this impacts the members of a K-9 handler's family that live with the dog. ey can become as attached to the K-9 as the handler and they can also be traumatized by severe injury or trauma affecting the dog that they know as their beloved pet. RETRAINING T he path to recovery for a K-9 suffer- ing from PTSD aer a critical inci- dent begins with a slow and methodical retraining. e handler and training crew should bring the dog back to its foundational training by employing a positive reward system to review and test the dog's ability to obey commands in a predictable manner. For example, if the dog was involved in a critical incident that involved gun- fire, the dog should be re-oriented and re-exposed to gunfire in the same man- ner in which it was originally exposed to gunfire during its time as a puppy or Recognizing and Treating PTSD in the Police K-9 K-9s and their handlers need to retrain when the dog suffers trauma that affects its mental health. PHOTOS: ACE K9

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