The Columbia Police Department started its K-9 Unit in 1988 with one team, which is one handler and one dog. It is now a specialized unit that consists of eleven K-9 teams. Each team operates on a city wide basis and is used to support patrol operations, specialize units, and criminal investigations division, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The K-9 Unit currently utilizes Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds, and one Bloodhound. The canines are trained in multiple skill sets to include tracking, drug detection, criminal apprehension, handler protection, building search, and article search. Only the Bloodhound serves as a single purpose tracking dog. The canines go through many hours of training with their handler to maintain the highest level of proficiency. Over the years the K-9 teams have tracked and located missing persons, apprehended dangerous suspects, and have been responsible for the removal of significant amounts of illegal drugs from the communities in Columbia.
The handler attends many long and hard physical hours of training throughout their career with their canine. The partnership between the canine and their handler is one of the most unique in the police force because at the end of each shift the canine actually goes home with the handler and becomes part of the family.