The Canine Unit is comprised of a Sergeant and 22 canine teams. The deputies selected for the Canine Unit are among the most motivated and dedicated members of the agency. Each patrol canine handler must complete 400 hours (10 weeks) of tracking and detector training (narcotics or explosives) prior to graduating to another 400 hour, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Basic Canine Team Training Course. This course teaches the dog and handler all aspects of law enforcement canine including suspect apprehension, handler protection, tracking for suspects and missing persons, area searches for suspects, canine agility, and intense obedience training. The Canine Unit conducts all basic and in-service training utilizing experienced canine handlers as instructors. These instructors are certified canine trainers by the FDLE, Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission. The FDLE Basic Canine Team Training Course is sanctioned by the Kenneth C. Thompson Institute of Public Safety.
17 of the Canine Unit’s dogs are trained in both patrol work and detection. 12 of the canines are cross trained to detect illegal narcotics and 4 of them are trained to detect explosives. The explosive detection canine teams are routinely utilized to conduct security sweeps of public buildings, respond to bomb threats, and are tasked with dignitary protection when high profile personnel visit Polk County.
All patrol dogs are assigned to patrol shifts each of the 5 patrol districts within Polk County. The patrol dogs assigned to the Canine Unit provide 24 hour coverage to support members of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies within and outside of Polk County.
2 narcotic detection canines are assigned to the Bureau of Special Investigations for use in drug interdiction operations and to locate illegal narcotics during search warrants. The Department of Detention has 1 narcotic detection canine assigned to assist in searching inmate dorms for illegal narcotics which may have been smuggled into the jail facilities. The Department of Detention narcotic detection canine also conducts searches during visitation hours with inmates to reduce the possibility of narcotics being introduced into the detention facility.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office also has 2 tracking Bloodhounds. These canine teams conduct searches for missing/lost persons and track criminals who have fled from deputies or crime scenes. The Bloodhound Teams assist all local law enforcement agencies and are often requested to respond to other counties to assist with missing person searches and high profile criminal incidents.
Dog breeds currently utilized: German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Belgian Malinois, German Shorthair Pointers, and Bloodhounds.