The newest K-9 officers graduating from the Maryland State Police academy this week have a skill set unique in the state and possibly the nation.
Four Labrador retrievers who will be recognized at a ceremony with their state trooper handlers Friday are the first teams in the force trained to detect explosive-related odors on people, Maryland State Police said in a statement.
"We believe we’re the first state police department in the country to have dogs with this extra ability," Greg Shipley, spokesman for Maryland State Police, told Patch.
The dogs can also detect explosives in traditional settings, like in a building or under a bench, police said, but the person-borne explosive detection training is new.
"The importance of this is we want law enforcement to have an edge—to possibly identify the person carrying the explosives before they get to their destination, to wherever they want to go to plant the explosives," Shipley said.
There will be a special demonstration at Friday morning's graduation in Sykesville showing a K-9 team detecting explosives carried by a person, police said.
The four Labradors graduating are new additions to the Maryland State Police force, while their handlers are Maryland state troopers who have previously worked with K-9s, according to Shipley.
Federal partners helped make the addition of the new K-9s possible, according to police.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate and its Explosives Detection Canine Program funded the purchase of the dogs and provided training and equipment, according to Shipley, who said it was a "significant investment."
He said the dogs will be called for duty all over the state, as the K-9 officers typically assist local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, under contract with the Department of Homeland Security, is helping to manage the program and will track its progress, police said.