K-9’s Join the Florida Highway Patrol
In December of 1983 the Florida Highway Patrol took the first step forward in the establishment of the Canine Program by sending four canine teams to a twelve week school conducted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
The K-9 teams were trained, under the supervision of Sergeant Fred Wheeler of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department, for 12 weeks in obedience, agility, tracking, building searches, criminal apprehension and the detection of drugs. The dogs were trained to detect cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methaqualone pills.
The four teams graduated on February 24, 1984, and were soon on the road chalking up some impressive arrests in the first few months of the program. In the first seven months that the dogs patrolled Florida’s highways drugs valued at over 7.5 million dollars (street value) were seized, 130 felony charges were made in connection with transporting of drugs and over $60,000 cash was seized. In addition to routine patrol duties, the K-9’s have been called to assist federal agencies, local police departments and sheriff’s departments. These agencies have requested our K-9 Teams to search buildings, check suspect packages being shipped by bus and help to obtain evidence for search warrants that led to conviction of a drug trafficker in federal court.
While on routine patrol these dogs are professionals, however, when off-duty they have a completely different personality. At home the dogs are part of their families and completely compatible with other pets.
Each trooper and his canine are trained in all aspects of canine work which included obedience, attack, tracking and drugs. The primary use of these units is the detection of illegal drugs. They add an extremely helpful dimension to the patrol’s war on drug trafficking.
By 1985 the patrol had twelve units with plans to enlarge the program to sixteen. Each troop had at least one unit with Troops K and E having two.
Fifty-seven troopers and supervisors comprise the Florida Highway Patrol Contraband Interdiction Program (CIP). These specially trained troopers, designated as felony officers and canine handlers, comprise twenty-two felony teams. Each felony team consists of two troopers and one canine. In conjunction with their primary mission, these troopers are strategically assigned throughout the state to patrol the interstate system and other highways in order to interdict illegal drugs and other criminal activity. Equipped with sophisticated drug detection equipment such as fiber optic scopes, drug detection devices, electronic measuring devices, dual purpose canines, and various other tools, these dedicated trooper have in the past five years seized over $18.5 million of illegal drugs and other contraband, resulting in 6,089 criminal cases with 12,987 arrests.