What would you do?


Steven D. Nicely

If you were the handler and trainer in this case what would you do?

The below quote comes from United States v. Gina Mesa 6th Circuit.

“Segerson had a trained narcotics detecting dog with him. He approached the Cadillac with the dog and walked the dog around the car. The dog did not alert. By this point in time, there were two other officers on the scene in addition to Segerson, although the record does not reflect whether Segerson called for back up or whether the officers stopped on their own accord.

The three officers began a search of the interior of the car, the underbody of the car, and the trunk. No contraband was found. At this point, Segerson ordered Estella Mesa and her children to join the defendant in the back seat of the police car. The officers then proceeded to remove all of the luggage from the trunk of the car, and Segerson noticed what appeared to be a "partition" in the trunk of the car. Segerson looked behind the partition with a flashlight and saw nothing. Approximately at this point in time, the Mesas indicated that they wished to leave, but they were not allowed to do so.

The three officers eventually pried open the partition. A package wrapped in duct tape became visible. The package contained five kilograms of cocaine, and along with the package were two loaded firearms.”

What is interesting is after the Mesa case the unit's records were reviewed by an independent source regarding another case. The records gave no indication testing was done to find out why the dog failed. If the trainer, handler, or administration did not care enough to address this much missed drugs it would be difficult to believe they would address non productive responses. Perhaps that explains why the records released for review showed this unit to be only 6% accurate in field conditions.

This same unit stopped two private investigators who were hired to attempt to recreate the stop of a case as closely as possible. They studied the transcripts from the onboard police camera and learned the body language of the two suspects. Then they rented a vehicle like the one carrying the drugs. The vehicle was thoroughly cleaned and allowed to air. Shortly after entering the jurisdiction of this department they were stopped and permission to search was requested. The investigators refused. A dog was brought to the scene and after several trips around the vehicle the handler said the dog responded to the passenger’s door out of view of the onboard camera.

The vehicle used was a cargo truck. Instead of searching were the dog responded and working from there the officers immediately cut open the lock on the cargo hold. When the door to the cargo hold was opened and showed to be empty the officers appeared to have been in shock. One officer stated excitedly “we have been set up.” Another said to the private investigators “I want to know why the dog alerted?” That question should have been made to the handler.

So the question is if you were the chief, sheriff, trainer, or handler in either of the about situations would you want to know why your dog failed? If so then you are concerned about performance, but if not you need to find another profession.

revised 06/10/2007