K-9’s Are Helping Investigators Find Electronic Devices
After serving eight years as an investigator in the ICAC unit, Detective Polhemus now serves as the K-9 handler for the Seattle ICAC Unit.
We’ve all seen the incredible work that dogs play in finding people trapped in earthquakes or keen-nosed K-9s that sniff out contraband drugs. In a similar fashion, Detective Polhemus’ partner, “Bear,” an energetic, young Labrador retriever, uses his amazing nose to find electronic devices.
“Our primary responsibility is to search for and locate electronic storage devices that might have otherwise been overlooked or missed by human investigators,” Detective Polhemus explained. “The ICAC investigators will execute a search warrant. Once they have concluded the search and they’re vacating the residence, Bear and I will go in and we will do what I refer to as a ‘secondary sweep’…to see whether or not anything has been overlooked.
“The devices that Bear can find include hard drives, solid-state drives, cell phones, iPods, iPads, SD cards, microSD cards, thumb drives. Essentially, … is if it’s an electronic device that can hold ones and zeroes, Bear can probably find it.”
Bear has an amazing track record, too. “In terms of our overall success rate, in the five years that we’ve been working, we are statistically sitting right at 33 percent,” Detective Polhemus said proudly… That means that one out of three times when I put Bear into a search warrant situation, he will find one or more devices that had been missed by the search team.”
This doesn’t mean that search teams aren’t doing their job. Remember, criminals don’t want electronic devices that may hold incriminating evidence found, and some go to great lengths to hide things.
Detective Polhemus recalled a famous case where Bear’s discovery helped bring a child sexual predator to justice.
“Several years ago,” Polhemus began, We were searching a travel trailer in the backyard of a residence. When the investigators were done, we went in.
This travel trailer, just to paint the picture, was so disgusting that when you walked in you couldn’t even see the floor. From front to back, side to side, there was no carpet, there was no floor because there were probably 18 to 24 inches of stuff everywhere you went.
“So we start our search. We get halfway into the trailer and Bear starts burrowing. He’s digging underneath, trying to get down beneath all of this garbage. Here I am on my hands and knees next to him, just tossing stuff to the side to make room for Bear to get down.
“Long story short, he ends up literally burrowing to the side of the trailer, where the refrigerator was. And as we continued to uncover things, we realized that the refrigerator was standing on top of a custom-built box that the suspect had built.
“Bear is trying to crawl inside this hollowed-out area underneath the refrigerator, and I’m pulling more stuff out from there. And against the back wall was a Tupperware bin. I pull the Tupperware bin out and Bear is just going crazy.
I pull the lid off the Tupperware bin, and it was absolutely chock-full, top to bottom, with electronics, the vast majority of which were later determined to contain child sexual abuse material…’ But for the power of the nose,’ as I like to say, it never would have been discovered.”