The El Paso Police Department’s Canine Section was created in 1976 with 2 handlers, Officer Richard Edens and Officer Marco Payan. The El Paso Police Department’s Canine Section’s 31 year tenure is an impressive testament to the Department’s commitment to Police Service Dogs as well as the value of the canine in police work.
Currently, the EPPD Canine Section has 9 K-9 team positions. Eight of the K-9 teams consist of one patrol officer and a dual purpose canine. One K-9 team consists of a sergeant and a Bloodhound. A dual purpose canine is a canine trained to locate human scent and the odor of narcotics. These police service dogs search for suspects, lost victims, and evidence that suspects may have discarded as well as the recognition of the odor of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. European bred canine breeds currently used are the Belgium Malinois and the Dutch Shepherd.
In addition to the K-9 teams assigned to the EPPD Canine Section, the EPPD has an additional 5 Narcotic Detector K-9 teams assigned to two different Narcotics Units and 5 Explosive Detector K-9 teams assigned to the El Paso International Airport.
The Canine Section is assigned to the Special Services Division under the Support Services Bureau and is just that, a support service. K-9 teams are trained extensively so that they can be of service to other Bureaus, Sections and Details when the dogs’ special abilities are needed. K-9 teams are available nearly 24 hours a day. Regardless of assigned hours, the service is available twenty-four hours a day on a call-out basis.
After a rigorous and extensive selection process, a new handler and canine must attend an 18 week long Police Service Dog academy conducted by the Canine Section’s trainer and staff. After graduation, the new K-9 team receives a Departmental certification as well as a certification from a nationally recognized canine organization.
The police service dog of today is like its human counterpart, professional and highly trained. All of the EPPD’s canines are kenneled at the handler’s home. Handlers literally spend more time with their partners than any member of their family. Nearly all of the EPPD’s K-9 handlers have children. These dogs blend in well within the family environment. This interaction is a big reason why we have such “social” animals.