As with everything, the ways of private security are changing, and one of those changes involve adding K-9 teams to the security department.
Security K-9 Teams
For the most part, the use of K-9 teams in private security until recently has only been in the highest-level security operations. There have been K-9 teams in other settings, for example healthcare, security mobile patrols, crowd controls and a few others, but it has not been mainstreamed.
One of the most often asked questions when I am working with clients has slowly been gaining steam, and they are considering forming a K-9 unit in their security operations. Why, is often the first question that I immediately follow with.
Some of the numerous other questions that I will ask include, but are not limited to the following:
- Why, do they feel they need a K-9 team?
- What do they hope to achieve with a team?
- Who will be training the dog and handler?
- Will there be K-9 teams on every shift and every day of the week, or just in an extremely focused time period?
- Will the K-9 be a mobile patrol, or foot patrols only?
- Will the K-9 teams be working inside the client’s facilities, or strictly outside?
With regards to the first question above, what I often hear is that they want a K-9 team to intimidate people that may be trespassing, or that may be prone to verbal or physical violence. I have heard such a response from healthcare security management. While there is an undisputed fact that the levels of violence in healthcare are remarkably high, the question we need to ask is, do we need to go to the level of security where a trained K-9 team? Will that make a difference?
It is possible that such a team could make a difference, even in healthcare, but at what cost? Would we really use a K-9 on an unruly patient in the confines of an emergency department (E.D.)? If you have been to any E.D.s over the last few years you have probably noticed that they can be, and often are remarkably high stress environments, with people on edge due to anxiety, drugs, alcohol, or a number of other precipitating factors including long wait times. During this ongoing pandemic, most hospitals have a no visitor policy in their E.D.s which means that family cannot be with their loved ones in the treatment areas.
One of the most prevalent precipitating factors with regards to the violence in healthcare is often due to some level of mental health issues. Again, there is no dispute that the mental health issues are high on the list of reasons why staff and others get injured during workplace violence situations. That said, are we intended to let a security dog loose to take down a person in a mental health crisis?
Restrictions on Security K-9 Teams
One of the other most often stated reasons for adding a security K-9 team was due to the number of homeless people that will not leave the premises, or that are panhandling and bothering the client’s customers, visitors, patients, families and so on.
I asked one security director what he would use the K-9 team for with regards to the homeless. He stated that the handler would ask the person to leave the property, and if they refused, he would bring in the dog as close to the person as possible to make that person uncomfortable.
My next question was, if that did not work, what would you expect the K-9 handler to do? He stated that the handler would call another officer to come and arrest the person for trespassing. Of course he said this because he realized that the K-9 officer could not affect the arrest because he must always maintain control of the dog. So just how effective will the K-9 team be?
Please do not get me wrong, I am not opposed to security K-9 teams, but I will ask the obvious questions to ascertain if the program is justified and worth the risks that will come with it. If there is no historical data with regards to the serious security incidents on the property in the past 3-5 years, that could have been mitigated or minimized with the use of a K-9 team, I may not be able to professionally justify the implementation of a K-9 program.
I look at it this way, if the implementation of the K-9 program is warranted, there will be statistics and documentation that will provide the justification. Absent such information, I would recommend an in-depth justification process where we will look at all root causes of past incidents and ongoing security risks. In other words, what are you doing now that is not working, and have you tried everything else possible? Would more and improved training for the security staff help to reduce the numbers of security incidents? Is it possible that your patrols, post orders, and overall operations do not have a defined intent or measurable goals to reduce security incidents?
Just as a quick example of what I am talking about, there was a medical center in a large inner-city that had a ongoing issue with the homeless coming into their facilities, especially at night, and using the restrooms to bath, sleep and even do drugs. In this case the medical center secured all restrooms after 7 p.m. so that they could not be used by the homeless. They also secured all other doors to offices, meeting rooms, closets and so on so that the homeless could not find a place to sleep. The result? The problem went away, as did the homeless.
There was another facility that had an ongoing issue with the homeless using the water spigots on the outside of the buildings to bathe. They took the steps to mitigate this ongoing issue and secured all outside water spigots, and as a result the problem went away, as did the homeless. And yet another business found that the homeless were using the electrical outlets on the outside of the buildings to charge their cell phones and other electronic devices. However, once they secured those outsets, or capped them off so that they could not be used, again the problem went away. Simple fixes to problems that were ongoing, yet they were looking for a K-9 program to deal with the issue.
Security K-9 Liability Risks
Yep, with all new programs comes the potential risk of increased liability exposure, and a K-9 is no different. Dog bites, intentional or accidental, can and likely will result in civil litigation. We must ensure that the training program is strong and managed and implemented by trained professionals.
We will also need to understand the limitations on the use of the K-9 teams. For example, in a hospital setting where a patient is physically attacking a nurse, will the dog be used to apprehend the aggressor? I had an administrator tell me that yes, we would expect the K-9 officer to deploy the dog, but they did not understand that the dog does not discriminate when they bite. K-9 dogs are trained to go after an aggressor, and they do not know the difference between a patient and a nurse. Just ask around to your local police and you will find that over the years many police officers have been bitten by a police dog that attacking a suspect.
It is my recommendation that your administrators carefully conduct the proper due diligence on forming and staffing a K-9 team. If your security staff is asking for a K-9 team, ask for the justification based on historical data and statistics that they have.
Trust me when I say that if I were still a security director and I was asking for a K-9 team I would not want to be turned down either. However, I would never ask without having the indisputable evidence and documentation to justify such a move. If you have completed your due diligence and compiled the answers to the questions that will likely come up during a review by the administrators, the facts will likely speak for themselves.