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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

April 23, 2010


Contact: Public Affairs Division

(202) 648-8500

ATF Canine Handlers Train Mexican Law Enforcement

First Mérida Initiative Funding Class Graduates

FRONT ROYAL, Va. — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) today announced the graduation of 10 Mexican law enforcement officers from its National Canine Training Operations Center’s canine handler basic course.

Eight officials completed the 10-week class, a basic course which teaches new handlers all the necessary skills to deploy an explosives detection canine in operational environments. Two graduates successfully completed the 16-week “Train-the-Trainer” course. The first six-week participants learned to “imprint” untrained canines so they can search for more than 19,000 explosives odors, including homemade and peroxide-based explosives, in the field. The remaining 10 weeks taught students how to teach their own 10-week explosive detection canine handler course. The goal of the “Train-the-Trainer” course is to assist Mexico with developing their canine training capability.

When these teams of explosives detection canines and handlers go back home they will be at the frontline combating violence associated with cartels that use explosives to kill and intimidate people so they can traffic drugs and firearms across the U.S. – Mexico border, explained Kenneth Melson, ATF deputy director.

Narcotics trafficking from Mexico fuels firearms trafficking across the United States. Violence in Mexico, financed and perpetrated by powerful drug trafficking organizations, increasingly involves the use of explosives as well. By partnering with Mexico, with funding from the U.S. Department of State Mérida Initiative, ATF is working to equip law enforcement officials with useful tools to combat violent crime.

The Mérida Initiative is a multi-year program that provides equipment and training to support law enforcement operations and technical assistance for long-term reform and oversight of security agencies. In 2010, Congress approved $450 million for Mexico to complement U.S. domestic efforts to reduce drug demand, stop the flow of arms and weapons, and confront gangs and criminal organizations. The Mérida Initiative demonstrates the United States’ commitment to partner with governments in Mexico, Central America, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic to confront criminal organizations whose actions plague the region and spill over into the United States. ATF developed the explosive detection canine program to combat the explosives threat in the United States and abroad. ATF is also at the forefront of combating terrorism through such innovative programs as training local, state, federal and international law enforcement explosives detection canines in peroxide-based explosives, using its years of experience training its own ATF-certified explosives detection canine teams on these substances.

Since 1991, ATF has trained 676 explosives detection canines and 149 accelerant detection canines. The dogs and their ATF-trained handlers are located throughout the United States in local police and fire departments, fire marshal offices and federal and state law enforcement agencies. Teams are also located in 21 foreign countries.