Saint Paul Police Department releases Canine Unit audit report

Today (Friday, Jan. 4), the Saint Paul Police Department released the findings of a comprehensive audit of the canine unit commissioned by Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Chief of Police Todd Axtell last July.

The audit was conducted by Bill Finney & Associates, which provides expert consulting and audit services in the area of police operations. Finney, who has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience and became Minnesota’s first African American police chief when he was sworn in as the leader of the Saint Paul Police Department in 1992, was provided complete access to the Canine Unit, police employees, policies and reports.

The goal of the five-month audit was to evaluate the canine unit’s operations. Originally $100,000 was budgeted for the audit, but the final cost was $70,000. Finney’s team used a multitude of methods to gain an understanding of the unit’s policies, including:

  • case reviews of all incidents that involved accidental bites from 2012 to 2018,
  • reviews of selected cases involving canine bites,
  • interviews with police employees, the City Council and community members,
  • including representatives from the Saint Paul Chapter of the NAACP,
  • review of current and prior policies,
  • direct observation of Canine Unit personnel,
  • site inspections, and
  • literature review.

The audit report includes 37 recommendations for how the safety and effectiveness of the unit can be improved, including:

  • 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, and
  • investing in the necessary resources to improve the unit’s safety and effectiveness.

The police department has already taken steps to improve the safety and effectiveness of the unit, including adding a full-time commander and sergeant to the unit, enhancing its training and being more strategic 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."

According to Chief Axtell, the audit will help the unit continue to improve.

“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.”

He added that his leadership team will begin working to implement many of the recommendations immediately and work to address the others as soon as possible.

Read the audit report: