Police dogs are a feature of any modern police service. For several years now, the RCIPS has benefitted from the added capabilities that its trained police dogs bring to drug and firearm search and recovery operations. In 2017, for example, the K-9 Unit was central to the recovery of eight of the twenty-one firearms recovered throughout the year, in addition to their critical role in many drug operations. The K-9 Unit also regularly assists the Tactical Firearms Unit with arrests, as police dogs provide a less lethal option in the apprehension of high-risk suspects.
Going forward, the K-9 Unit is expanding its policing role to include police visibility as well as operational support. K-9 officers have begun patrolling the waterfront and other high-traffic pedestrian areas at peak periods to increase security and public reassurance. They also now work attached to shifts, so that they are more available and on hand to answer regular calls for service where their capabilities might be needed.
Generally the RCIPS brings trained dogs from the US, which are either Malinois or German Shepherds, to work as police dogs with the K-9 Unit. After they arrive, new dogs undergo extensive training and bonding with the K-9 officers who will be their handlers before being assigned any police duties. Police dogs usually work for about 7-8 years before they are retired, at which point they are usually adopted on island.
With the recent retirement of two dogs, the K-9 Unit has two police dogs, Shadow and Spike, and three handlers at present. The Unit will be in the process of adding new dogs to its ranks throughout 2018, some of which will be dedicated searches of people, premises, vehicles, schoolbuses, etc. ("passive" dogs), and others which will work as general purpose dogs to track, detain, and search for firearm, drugs and cash. As of late April the newest addition to the Unit, a Dutch Herder named Athena, arrived on island.