Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

Who didn’t let the dogs out? Did Boston PD fail to use K-9 units correctly in terrorist hunt?

Written By: Bob - Apr• 25•13
Expert: "I would have had that turkey by the next commercial break."

Expert: “I would have had that turkey by the next commercial break.”

Commenter “rustbucket” asks a slap-yourself-in-the-forehead obvious question about the massive manhunt for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that I don’t have a ready answer for:

One question I’ve seen posed, but as yet unanswered, where were the “tracking” K9 unit(s)? Seems to me to be a pretty good question. Anybody?

I watched the search for the Tsarnaev brothers on television from Thursday evening with reports of shots fired at MIT, through the shootout that left Tamerlan Tsarnaev dead, to the capture of Dzhokhar the following evening. I slept four hours Friday morning and didn’t miss much, flipping back and forth between CNN and Fox News on television while monitoring events on Twitter and catching the wire service reports as they came in via RSS feeds.

At no point do I recall seeing a K-9 unit in the massive call-out of heavily-armed local, state, and federal law enforcement officers. I’m not saying they weren’t there—they churned out several thousand cops to search for this one suspect so there must have been some K-9 units—but I’m questioning why K-9 units weren’t the primary resource leading of the operation.

After all, we know that K-9 units responded to the shootout that killed Tamerlan. We know that the police had easy access to Dzhokhar’s apartment and personal items from which to obtain a scent, and the exact location where he bailed out of the carjacked Mercedes SUV in which to launch the search for a bloody, smelly, wounded suspect who was also reeking of bomb chemical compounds and gunpowder. A blind police K-9 unit with a sinus infection should have been able to track down Dzhokhar Tsarnaev within half-an-hour of his short breakout.

But instead of using the K-9s they had at the scene where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev escaped, authorities shut down an entire metropolitan region of millions, and called in hundreds of heavily armed and armored police officers with automatic weapons and armored vehicles to launch a slow, heavy-handed and expensive search of a 20-block area, that utterly failed to find the suspect.

It was a middle-aged white guy with no police experience who found the terrorist, just 1/2 mile from where the suspect ditched the car.

Where were the dogs, and why did the authorities fail to use them properly?

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  1. Nate says:

    How pissed off will we all be if it’s discovered that some “higher-up” in the police department (probably a political appointee) decreed that dogs shouldn’t be used so as not to offend the suspect’s muslim sensibilities?

    Islam considers dogs to be “unclean” after all.

  2. lcb says:

    I THINK there’s a HUGE difference in dogs trained for most police work and dogs trained to follow a scent. Police dogs are trained to alert on drugs, weapons, the presence of a stranger, etc…AND to intimidate during crowd control situations. Blood hounds or dogs trained to track are not seen in everyday use by police.

    • Bigdiogi says:

      Part of standard training for ANY K-9 is both tracking and scouting (Finding people by airborne, as opposed to ground, scent.). The Malinois and Shepherds in general use as K-9s, nor the Retriever breeds widely used for bomb and drug work, are not as focused on tracking by both genetic ability and training as the Bloodhounds and other scent hounds. But they do have some ability and training in finding people. They actually do extensive training in searching buildings by scent, as this is a primary function for Police K-9s.

      I am not as invested in this story as are many, so don’t know the time line. But dogs CANNOT follow a subject in a car. No scent molecules are deposited on the ground, nor borne on the breeze, so pup has nothing to track.

  3. I listened to the relevant police scanner frequencies almost the entirety of last Friday while the pursuit was taking place (I was working from home and had it streaming over my laptop). There were regular transmissions throughout the day referring to various K9 units–how many were with particular deployed units, whether they needed to stand-down for rest, how long before replacement K9 units could relieve them, and so forth. There was clearly active management of K9 units in place occurring throughout the day.

    I don’t know what they had the K9 units actually doing, and of course my information is all audible rather than visual, but that’s what I heard via police scanner that day.

  4. B says:

    bomb or drug sniffing dogs aren’t trained as trackers.

    And especially the handlers aren’t well enough trained.

    • Windy says:

      By instinct, dogs track by air scent. Scent in the air degrades quickly with wind, rain, etc. and changes location (e.g. scent settles in low spots). Training a dog to track involves teaching the dog to substitute ground scents for air scents, which I suspect is not part of K9 training.

  5. Real Deal says:

    Actually Bob I was the one who asked that if you look at your comments.

  6. Real Deal says:

    Boston Rights Massacre post.

    April 23, 2013 at 3:15 pm

  7. Comrade X says:

    All they needed was a good ole boy from NC with a Bluetick seems like that would be a lot cheaper than one of them dare tanks or fancy drones, don’t ya know!

    Death before slavery!

    • lcb says:

      I don’t think them good ole boys would be dumb enough to release a hound with all that untrained firepower lurking about. Woulda gotten ole blue plugged, if yah know what I mean…

      Which may be another reason the BPD did’t put dogs on the front line. :-)

  8. louielouie says:

    off topic, again.
    in the UK, all police dogs in muzzy areas have to wear booties, like SAR dogs wear at active sites.
    guess why?

  9. Cole says:

    Maybe I’m giving the BPD too much credit but maybe they kept the dogs off the search for fear of them being injured in an exchange of gun fire. The surviving jihadi seemed to eager to fire back. Bringing a dog into a firefight would put that dog into danger.

  10. mytralmann says:

    The only dog I ever met who looked like Rin T T was at a Seal event last March. He was used only to go on his own into houses, mostly at night, with a camera on his vest to find bad guys but, more specifically, to smell explosives. Explosives are the real danger to the handlers of these animals, I was told, hence the dog’s importance. So maybe here, where there was plenty to worry about after the post MIT shoot out in which IEDs were thrown around and there was talk of a bomb vest, the dogs were considered more police protectors than suspect finders, so of limited usefulness.

  11. SDN says:

    Actually, Bob, the picture for the previous post seems to show at least one dog in the center of the picture.

  12. scituate_tgr says:

    Common, this is Massachusetts, it’s called: overtime.

    Dogs tend to speed up a search – so they shut down the town first, told everyone to hide … easy-peasy.