Emergency Dial 911, Portsmouth Police Department, 3 Junkins Avenue, Portsmouth, NH 03801, Tel: (603) 427-1500

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Patrol Division
K9 Unit

Each year has been an eventful one for the K-9 Unit since its permanent formation in 1985. We have achieved some significant new initiatives, some sad moments with the deaths of K-9 Max, K-9 Hud, K-9 Cliff, K-9 Akasha, K-9 Arras, K-9 Benny, K-9 Vador, and K-9 Dragon, some visible new signs of our advancing mission and as always, some renewal of our most fundamental commitments.

Roll Call of Portsmouth Police K-9 Teams

  • Sgt. Richard Pearson and K-9 Hud -1974-1978
  • Ptl. Philip Ahlin and K-9 Max- 1985-1987
  • Ptl. David Ferland and K-9 Akasha- 1987-1994
  • Ptl. Philip Ahlin and K-9 Cliff- 1987-1992
  • Ptl. Michael Ronchi and K-9 Arras 1988-1991
  • Ptl. Philip Ahlin and K-9 Vador- 1992-1994
  • Ptl. David Ferland and K-9 Dragon-1992-2001
  • Ptl. Philip Ahlin and K-9 Benny-1994-1997
  • Ptl. Philip Ahlin and K-9 Turbo-1999-2001
  • Ptl. Rebecca Hester and K-9 Viktor-2000-2007
  • Ptl. Timothy Black and K-9 Turbo-2001-2006
  • Plt. Timothy Black and K-9 Kai-2004-2006
  • Ptl. Michael Kotsonis and K-9 Titan 2008-2009
  • Ptl. Scott Pearl and K-9 Wess-2006-2012
  • Ptl Eric Kinsman and K-9 Titan 2009-Present
  • Ptl. Scott Pearl and K-9 Bruin-2012-Present

Reports are often cluttered with statistics that are used as measuring rods of progress. Important to remember are the less tangible issues that are equally deserving to mention. One of the ways in which the K-9 Unit identifies itself is as a community orientated, professional police service. In response to this need for effective law enforcement, we have been used in over 5,000 calls for service and the seizure of over 15 million dollars worth of illegal drugs. The Unit has enjoyed solid support by the public and has demonstrated the dogs abilities to approx. 1/2 million of them representing over 500 different civic and educational organizations.

Police K-9 Titan and Police K-9 Bruin, both German Shepherd Dogs, now share the duties passed on to them by the past generations of Portsmouth K-9's. The dogs are trained to track criminals in a city environment and sniff them out when hidden inside a building during a foiled burglary. They have located over 25 lost children and elderly people who have wandered away from home. They have provided Presidential Security and executive Protection for those dignitaries visiting the Portsmouth area. The Unit is loaned out to the Attorney Generals Office, Statewide Drug task Force, United States Customs, U.S. Immigration, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, United States Coast Guard, and over 30 other Law Enforcement Agencies across New England and Canada. The Portsmouth Coast Guard stated,

"It is with their keen sense of smell that it takes only 2-3 hours to search for drugs a large tanker ship entering the Port of Portsmouth. The dogs take the place of 11 officers when conducting these searches."

Our dogs also locate discarded evidence such as a gun or mask that has been thrown in the woods by an escaping robber. Any item with a trace of human scent on it can be located by our Police K-9's. Recent robberies and burglaries have been solved by the K-9's sniffing out these clues used to identify these dangerous criminals. A shooting in Maine was solved when one of our dogs sniffed out the weapon that was thrown away in the backyard of a Portsmouth home. The area had already been searched for 3 hours by detectives and not located. It was partially buried in a trash pile when retrieved by the dog.

The dogs contribute to a safer work environment by providing security and protection not only to the handler but supporting personnel. Deployed as front line tools, the K-9 Teams are involved in nearly every major or violent crime investigation. The dogs have proven themselves valuable in high risk encounters and as such, they are placed at higher risk calls more than any other officer within the department. The dogs are trained to protect the handler and any other person, chase down a fleeing felon upon command and if necessary, give their life to protect others. Remote door opening devices allow the rear door of the cruiser to open when the handler presses the control button attached to the duty belt. The dog can now leave the car and assist the handler who may be fighting with a violent suspect, or chase down the burglar who runs away when the police arrive. In 16 years of front line emergency service, the K-9 Handlers have only been out of work on job related injuries for several weeks. This protection capability also provides a deterrence most useful to Police operations. Deployed in higher crime areas and beats that are expecting trouble during the shift, the dogs symbolize and reflect the probability of getting caught and the futility of fight with the police.

The Unit is most proud of our high number of surrenders. The mere presence of the dog acts as an effective threat when necessary. Given the option of submitting to the arrest or fighting with the dog, the criminal most often chooses surrender rather than "having the dog find me" as one burglar put it. These surrenders have a rippling effect because not only is the dog taking the fight out of the criminal, but is taking the place of many officers' and the likelihood for injury is substantially decreased. For every fight avoided, the potential lawsuit is avoided, the negative image of the department is lessened, and the officers injuries and related loss time costs are minimized. A 1992 study on the Portsmouth Police Dogs found 27 suspects surrendering their hiding place or choosing not to fight merely because of the presence of the dog. In post arrest interviews, many stated they did not fear the police officer but feared the dog bite and chose not to resist further because of the dog.

The dogs have searched an estimated 45,000 rooms and a thousand square miles for escaped felons, suspects, lost people and runaways. We have searched the area of Portsmouth a hundred times over. According to search and rescue studies, the trained dog is at least 60% more effective and works 7 times faster than a group of 88 people working together searching the same area. Conservative studies show that the Portsmouth K-9's have saved the City a minimum if $800,000 in search time alone and with 60% more accuracy.

Our conviction rates are high as the Courts have affirmed our dogs as relevant and credible evidentiary tools. In 16 years of continuous service the unit has never been sued in fact, the New Hampshire Supreme Court specifically cited our K-9 work as proper in their only case to date regarding the use of Drug Detection Dogs in this State. This mission is institutional as it calls upon every segment of the K-9 Units operation and training.

Quality resonates visible signs of our advancement as the handlers receive weekly training at the New Hampshire Police K-9 Academy and are required to be certified twice a year through the United States Police Canine Association, the only recognized national standard by the United States Supreme Court. Officer Eric Kinsman with K-9 Titan and Officer Scott Pearl with K-9 Bruin now carry on the deep tradition of Police Dog Handler for the City of Portsmouth.

The Unit has hosted the International Police K-9 Conference where 57 police dog teams and 15 unit commanders from all over America attended the week long seminar. The unit frequently hosts seminars in emergency k-9 first aid, dog nutrition, K-9 Legal issues and other Police K-9 related topics. These seminars attract teams from all over the United States and Canada in fact we have been host to several police K-9 competitions. Testimony was recently given at the New Hampshire Legislature concerning the importance of enacting a felony law for the willful death of Police K-9's in this State.

The Officers pass out our Police K-9 coloring book to the children on the beats. The handlers have demonstrated the dogs abilities to many and were honored by the New Hampshire Society for the Protection of Animals as the law enforcement model for its statewide Friends of Animals program. This is a video program reaching all teenage students teaching them the uses of animals, how they can benefit society, and the kind treatment that we should give them.

Throughout history, the Portsmouth Police K-9 Unit has had to meet difficult challenges head on. At times it meant a real fight for survival, and at times a challenge to deal with very limited resources. Nothing was achieved without active community support and professional work by the back up officers. In spite of tremendous obstacles facing the unit throughout the years, the Police K-9 teams are moved by a far more compelling reality; to help the police department prevent crime, preserve order and protect the rights, lives and property of all people. On call 24 hours a day, we stand ready to provide a community service for many years to come and as the Portsmouth Herald Newspaper puts it "a model for others to follow".

For more information or to schedule a free public demonstration for your organization, contact Team Commander, Sgt. Jonthan Aubin at 603-610-7551 or e-mail at jaubin@cityofportsmouth.com.

 Emergency Dial 911, Portsmouth Police Department, 3 Junkins Avenue, Portsmouth, NH 03801, Tel: (603) 427-1500