AUSTIN, Texas (Jan. 27, 2016) – Two Austin police officers woke up a man asleep at the wheel on Interstate Highway 35 in downtown Austin Tuesday. The officers suspected he might be drunk.
Before they could question him, the man started his car and sped away. The officers called the department’s K-9 Unit as they followed the man, according to police records.
Several miles later, the man jumped from his car and hid in a nearby neighborhood, Canine Sergeant Christopher Gwaldo said in an interview.
Gwaldo said Officer Daniel Eveleth and his canine partner Bear, a Belgian Malinois and one of the largest dogs in the unit, caught the man, who was arrested for drunk driving.
The canines are trained to bite arms and not release until an officer gives the command. Biting is a last resort, Gwaldo said, and is used only when suspects ignore warnings. Gwaldo said he hopes to add two more canine teams to the unit to have around the clock coverage.
“We like to tout what’s called using the dog as a locating tool,” Gwaldo said. “We use them as a locating tool, and bite is the last resort. The suspect is going to dictate whether or not we’re going to do that. Our bite ratio is right around 5 percent.”
The department is home to nine K-9 teams. Police established the K-9 unit in 1979. Canines are paired with handlers who train and work with them, as well as care for them, Officer James Bowman, handler of canine Cash, said in an interview.
Bowman said that no day is the same for the teams. The dogs are trained to locate suspects, search for missing people or evidence, and in some cases, are deployed for SWAT-related incidents. With their keen senses, they assist in hundreds of arrests a year.
“They are much more in tune to noises and sounds, and of course, their sense of smell,” Bowman said. “Their sense is so much better than ours, and it makes it safer for us to catch the bad guy.”