Eden Consulting Group

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Psychological Profiles of Fleeing Suspects

Bob & Stryker small© by R.S. Eden

The Calgary City Police dog section once did a study on how the brain performs under certain situations. The initial step was to go to the local university and enquire how the brain works given certain circumstances. After gleaning the information provided there, it was compared to a number of successful tracks that had been completed by members of the section. The informa tion was surprisingly consistent and has been effective in as sisting dog handlers on tracks.

When an officer begins to pursue a fleeing suspect by the application of a police dog, there are a number of factors which come into play. These factors can combine to defeat the dog. For example time delay, winds, temperature, vehicular and pedes trian traffic often result in the dog losing the track.

If the dog loses the track, and is unable to recover and continue, the officer can bring his skills into play as a person al tracker. Mantracking, combined with the theory regarding criminal psychological profiles of a fleeing suspects can often result in a recovery of the track for the dog. Patrol officers have also used these same skills to recover evidence where there is no dog team available to them. These techniques have also been used to help locate suspects that have just fled the scene of a crime.

Tracks left by individuals can be categorized into two basic areas. The first being passive tracks, the second being active tracks.


Passive tracks are those tracks which are left by people who are not seemingly in any rush or panic. The person is under little or no pressure to avoid being detected. Lost persons, elderly people who walk away from homes and even criminals who do not feel pressured by their circumstances. The following infor mation provided by a Sheriff's Bloodhound handler is a typical example of a passive criminal track.

Dale Myer is a Senior Handler with the Contra Costa County California Sheriff's Volunteer Search and Rescue Bloodhound Squad. He has gleaned some valuable information with respect to pursuing suspects who were IV drug users.

"I wanted to pass along an observation of mine regarding the effect of IV drug use on human scent and how it applies to officer safety."

"The Contra Costa Search and Rescue Bloodhounds are pri marily used for trailing lost people. Over the past ten years about half our trails turn into criminal cases and we'll have some hot pursuit calls as well. The handlers have come to expect and recognize the adrenaline scent or "fear" scent when working around the scene of a violent act. We also expect it when a bad guy is fleeing the scene. The hounds get "wired" every time they hit the adrenaline scent and they really work that trail hard."

"There have been many times where our handlers start working a trail expecting the dog to react to the adrenaline scent and they didn't flinch. The hound starts working like it's a day old training trail. We have followed up on many cases where the dog didn't react to the expected "fear" scent and have found the common denominator to be IV drug use. Somehow the drug user's adrenaline scent is masked or they simply don't pump adrenaline because they are high and have no fear."

"The bottom line is you may be working a trail expecting your dog to react and indicate strongly when you're getting close but in reality the dog might just walk up to the bad guy before you even realize you're in the ballpark."

"If you begin a trail and your dog doesn't react as you expect, you might be dealing with a drug user. STOP and take 30 seconds to brief your runners of what you may have. This should keep them on their toes even though they don't see the dog react ing strongly. This is the most important time to have your back up's alert and ready to react. Also, if you work your dog on lead, a longer lead may be in order to give you added clearance should the dog just walk up to the bad guy without warning."

The above information stresses the importance of having a backup, even though you may not appear to be on a hot trail. This passive track turned out to be a situation which could have become deadly under different circumstances.


The active track is what we deal with the most. As a result we know that the suspect we are after is under pressure to avoid apprehension. The person may or may not know that you are in pursuit of him, however due to the nature of the crime, he is intent on putting as much possible ground between him and the crime scene.

When attending the crime scene, you need to obtain as much intelligence as you can on your potential quarry. The point where he was last seen, or most likely to have been. If a robbery, what type of weapon was produced, and if a gun, some idea as to what caliber of weapon. This all helps in your mental preparation. Determine the description details of the suspect, including clothing, but remember that many suspects discard clothing or change at a predetermined location to assist in masking their flight. Physical features are most important. Determine if there is more than one suspect if possible, and I like to find out if the person appears to have been drinking. If so, is he heavily intoxicated. I have on more than one occasion had tracks end rather abruptly when the dog located the suspect within a few hundred yards of the crime scene due to his level of intoxication. They simply go to ground and hide rather than continuing their flight.

Suspects who are attempting to elude arrest show some surprisingly similar maneuvers when leaving crime scenes. The most common habits that were found to occur in the Calgary study are as follows.

1. A suspect exiting a doorway will usually turn to the knob side of the door.

2. When crossing from a street to an alley, or vice versa, he will use the right side of a house, even if the left side has a walkway and the right side is obstructed by a high fence.

3. In running down an alley or street, the suspect will use the right side.

4. If he can be forced by your containment to continually use left turns, he will panic and go to ground, which allows the handler a better possibility for capture.

5. Normally the suspect will only employ left turns to avoid immediate capture, or to gain some distant objective that cannot be reached by using right turns. In almost all cases, the suspects first turn will be to the left, and then a series of consecutive rights.

6. Evidence discarded or thrown by the suspect will nor mally be tossed on the right side of the track.

7. Two or more suspects running together will go to ground faster than a person traveling alone. Should one suspect be apprehended, the second suspect will often stay close to the scene, or will attempt to return to the scene to see what is happening to his partner. This is often accomplished by the second suspect by using a wide circle to the right. Once his partner has been removed from the scene, the second subject will resume his flight. For this reason, I always advise that sus pects apprehended on the scene, by patrol or by police dogs, be secured in a patrol car, however not removed from the scene of his arrest. This encourages the second suspect to stay close by out of curiosity and increases the likelihood of his successful arrest.

8. The Calgary study showed that 80% of all urban tracks terminated within 4 blocks.

If applied properly this information can result in assisting you in relocating tracks where the dog has momentarily lost it. All too often new dog handlers depend entirely on their dog to track and locate the suspect. Too much dependence on the dog will often lead to failure where success could have developed. If the officer takes advantage of the criminal psychological aspects and redeploys his partner in a direction chosen by using the previously mentioned profiles, he will often recover tracks momentarily lost by his dog.

Note: More advanced information on this subject during sessions instructed at the International Police K9 Conferences held annually in various locations throughout North America.


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