There are four K-9 teams and each team consists of a K-9 handler and a dual-purpose trained K-9.. The K-9s are utilized for narcotics detection and patrol work. We, also, have a fifth team currently in training. This canine will be trained exclusively as a drug dog and will be used by our narcotics team. These dogs are trained to search for and locate illegal drugs; perform tracks; evidence searches; building and subject searches; and criminal apprehension. Whenever they are not on the job, they reside with their handler, making it a full-time partnership, not just one for work.
K-9 officers apply through their chain of command to be considered for the position of handler. To be considered, officers have to have at least two years of police service. When an officer is selected for the K-9 program, the officer is matched with a K-9 partner and both attend a basic K-9 course that can last up to fourteen weeks. After basic training, the K-9 and handler must attend sixteen hours of in-service training each month. The training covers a variety of topics, such as legal updates and suspect tracking as well as drug and article searches.
The teams must attend annual certification trials conducted by the United States Police K-9 Association (USPCA). After completion of the trials, K-9 teams are certified in a range of categories. Aside from membership in the USPCA, some K-9 members belong to other police K-9 organizations and attend additional training conducted by those organizations.
The Burlington Police Department uses two distinct breeds of K-9 for the program, German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois, because both breeds have a proven record of intelligence, bravery, and athletic ability. Both breeds have a heritage as working dogs in the herding class, and their extreme sense of smell, alertness, and loyalty to their handler make them a valuable asset in times of danger.