St. Paul recommends new supervisor, training manual in audit of canine program

The St. Paul Police Department released an audit of its canine unit Friday, including recommendations to add a supervisor, establish a training manual and enforce warning requirements for when canines are deployed.

Police Chief Todd Axtell and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter commissioned the report last July. The department's canine unit had previously been in the news for some accidental canine bites that occurred over the past couple of years. 

The five-month audit sought to evaluate all of the canine unit’s operations. The audit only cost the city $70,000, which was short of the $100,000 budgeted.

In the end, the report provided 37 recommendations for “how the safety and effectiveness of the unit can be improved,” according to a release from St. Paul.

Here are some of the highlighted recommendations:

  • Adding a supervisor to the Canine Unit
  • Establishing a training manual
  • Emphasizing the canine’s primary role as a locating tool
  • Investing in adequate record-keeping systems and procedures
  • Standardizing training and deployment equipment
  • Enforcing standard warning requirements for when canines are deployed
  • Investing in the necessary resources to improve the unit’s safety and effectiveness

During the five-month audit, the department added a full-time commander and sergeant to the unit, enhanced its training and deployed new strategies about when and where canines are deployed.

"This audit offers an important opportunity to ensure our canine unit has the tools, resources, and training to serve our entire city well," said Mayor Melvin Carter.  "I appreciate Bill Finney & Associates’ thorough work and look forward to working with Chief Axtell to review its findings and develop an implementation plan right away."

“We know that our Canine Unit is among the best in the country, accidental bites are actually rare and our officers hold themselves to the highest standards—but that doesn’t mean we’re satisfied,” he said. “We can and will do more to improve, and this audit provides a blueprint to follow as we move forward.”