How Recreational Marijuana Legalization Affects K-9 Police Training


NIAGARA FALLS, NY (WKBW) – K-9 police officers trained to detect narcotics are a useful part of police work, law enforcement officials say.

“He can smell things that I can’t see. So if he smells any of the five drugs he’s trained on, he’s trained to aggressively scratch the scent, ”NYS Police Troop A Trooper Michael Schmit said.

Schmit’s dog, Nugent is a Dutch Shepherd. He joined the force in 2018. Schmit said Nugent’s job is slightly different now than if he had been trained five years ago. When he was trained in 2018, before marijuana was legal for recreational use for adults, his training did not include marijuana detection.

New York State Police Troop Public information officer James O’Callaghan said this was part of a proactive approach.

“We knew it could be a possibility. So in 2018, any K-9 that went through the academy at Cooperstown, the narcotic dog specifically wouldn’t be (trained to) detect marijuana.

O’Callaghan said six of his 98 K-9 narcotics had to be withdrawn statewide to avoid hampering any police investigation.

The Erie County Sheriff’s Office has taken a similar approach. It also removed four K-9s trained to detect marijuana two years ago and replaced them with new K-9s. A spokesperson for the sheriff said they were purchased using seized assets and did not affect the sheriff’s budget.

Some believe that the K-9 narcotics should be removed all together, as they can give a soldier a probable cause for investigation, but can also be unreliable.

However, according to a 2014 study published in Forensic Science International, on average, hidden drug samples were reported by dogs after 64 seconds of searching, with 87.7% of the indications being correct and 5.3% being false.

Dog training doesn’t come cheap. Private O’Callaghan said it ranged from $ 3,000 to $ 8,000 per dog and did not include the soldier’s salary during the six-month training academy. This is why in western New York, two K-9s that were trained before 2018 to detect marijuana remain active with force. O’Callaghan said they are not generally used for drug detection. “These are the end of a duel. Some of the K-9 detecting marijuana are also cadaver dogs. So they’re going to be able to find parts of the human body that may have died over a period of time. “

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