Meet Tyler Layfield, K-9 Officer with the Fremont Police Department
I first realized I wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement back in my high school days. Growing up I always liked to help people out. People that were less fortunate or that were just in a time of need. That would always make me feel good at the end of the day. So through high school, through my younger days, I never liked people getting picked on. I would always try to help them out. Stick up for people that couldn’t stick up for themselves.
Toward the end of my high school years trying to figure out how I could take that a step further and do career-wise. And I thought, what better choice than to work in law enforcement? And help take criminals off the street and make this a better society for us to live in.
I obviously graduated high school. After that I went to community college for a few years. During that time I worked a number of jobs. I was a waiter at a restaurant, I also got a civilian job here at the Fremont Police Department to get my foot in the door to be around the culture of law enforcement. And also I was a volunteer coach at a high school for the football team for a few years and also a Little League baseball team. I was then fortunate enough to get hired by Oakland Police Department when I was 20 1/2. So I took that job and I started working on the Oakland Police Department. In that time I was fortunate enough to work a lot with the K-9 unit. On searches, out on patrol, going after really bad, violent criminals. And when I got that exposure, that experience I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Then when I transferred to the Fremont Police Department I wanted to dive into the K-9 unit so I started learning how to take bites, be an agitator, help train the dogs, to help the handlers. I was then fortunate enough to become a K-9 handler after that.
Some of the differences in a K-9 handler officer and a regular patrol officer, first and foremost are your decision-making skills. When you get a K-9, it’s a walking, talking, breathing animal. That’s a lot of liability. That’s sometimes going to make its own decisions. And you have to train that dog and that is your partner day in and day out. Other patrol officers have to worry about themselves and being safe and going home. I also have to worry about my dog and training him how to react and respond to multiple different scenarios every single night. And to be successful and to get us home safe. In doing that the department gives us as handlers a lot of liability with that K-9 to make the right decisions and make the right choices. And in doing that we are constantly going after the most violent criminals that are out there. If you have a violent suspect that runs from you and patrol officers lock him down within a perimeter, they’re going to wait for the K-9 handler to show up and their dog and those two are going to be going in first to look for that violent criminal, to apprehend them and take them off the streets ultimately. So there’s just a few reasons of how the K-9 officer role sets aside from the regular patrol officer.
The K-9 training itself is very rigorous. When you first get assigned a police canine you have to go through a four-week school. It’s called a general patrol school. Its four-week long, 40 hour weeks. But it usually ends up more than that because there is so much work to get done with these dogs. After that we have a minimum of 16 hours a month of training that we have to do. But that’s on a very low scale of what you really end up doing. The months I trained probably close to 40 extra hours a month of training just with my dog because that’s how much work it takes to have a successful dog that’s going to help keep officers safe in the line of duty. And again it also touches with the liability, you have to have a well-trained dog. I do some of that training on duty, on shift, but we also go to other training schools. For example today I was at a training class all day learning how to work tactics with my dog. More going after those violent suspects and to make sure that he’s going to react properly in the right way. So we do get a lot more advanced training as far as officer safety and also training with the dog.
If I was to give a young teenager right now who wants to pursue law enforcement and to eventually be a K-9 handler, first and foremost would be you have to make good choices. That’s got to be center in who you are as a person. Whether it’s in a classroom right now, whether it’s after school, on a sports team, whether it’s on the weekends, at a party, at the movies, when you get your drivers license. Every day have to make good choices, you have to make good decisions. Because they are going to follow you. There are going to be consequences no matter what. You have to make good choices, and you have to have a good reputation, you have to have pride in yourself and to want to have a good reputation. You can’t burn bridges with anybody. You have to be respectful toward people, you have to have respect for yourself. If you keep that solid foundation of making good choices and having a very good reputation, everything else is going to take care of itself and you are going to get to where you want to be.