On the August 4, 2017 episode of Live PD, K-9 Officer Alyssa Wright, a four-year member of the Jeffersonville Police Department in Indiana, got social media buzzing when she took down two unruly people during a domestic disturbance call and held them until backup arrived.
We asked Wright about why she didn’t call out her K-9 partner, Cairo, while on that call, how it feels to be called a role model and what you didn’t see happen during that intense take down.
Were you nervous when you had to take down those two people [on the August 4 episode] before backup arrived?
I was fortunate enough to get the facts before I got there. I was told the man was going to fight and/or run. Usually we always go in with backup, but that night all our units were tied up. I diverted from another call to go to that one. I had prepared my mindset that I was going to do whatever I had to do until backup arrived. So, I went into it calm and collected and prepared to control the situation.
You didn’t bring Cairo out with you during that incident. Did you know in advance there would be other dogs at the scene?
We have been out there [to that location] numerous times because of dogs attacking people in the neighborhood. So, I knew they had dogs that were aggressive and would bite. When I approached, those dogs were out.
Most people aren’t aware that we have a button on our belts that I can [press] and it will pop the [car] door open and let Cairo out. Then I can call for him to come to me. In that situation, I didn’t want to do that because those dogs were already biting us. What you didn’t see is that [the Live PD] camera guy was getting bitten the entire time.
I love Cairo, and I need to be willing to use him just like I would a tool on my tool belt. As much as I would hate to send him into a situation he could potentially not come out of, the bottom line is that he’s there to protect my officers. However, in this case, I chose not to put him at risk. Plus, we usually don’t bring out the dogs when we’re called to domestic disturbances.
Are you trained to take down two people at once, or did you have to improvise?
Our department is great at training—we do scenarios where we have to control two officers. They do it differently every time so we don’t know what to expect. But I’ve never had it get to where that situation did. It was definitely me improvising the entire time on a second-to-second basis. I had to make sure I had the upper hand as the situation was constantly unfolding.
People are calling you a role model—what do you think of that?
That’s a really hard question, actually. I’m shocked in general and definitely flattered. I don’t think I’m anything special. I’m just an ordinary person, just another cop doing my job. If I can not only do my job and provide the service that my community needs but also be a role model, It’s definitely humbling and I thank them. I’m honored. Being called a role model is pretty much the hugest compliment you could get.
How did you end up working with Cairo?
I’m fortunate that they let me get on the K-9 team after just two years. I am a huge animal lover and I’ve always loved dogs. If we didn’t have a max of how many pets you could have in our county, I would probably have a million and live on a farm. I’m down to three dogs—two big, fat, gorgeous English bulldogs and Cairo. They all get along and run around together.
I just adopted out a boxer-lab mix that I got when we were called out to help. He had been dragged by a vehicle for quite some ways. I kept him while he was being medically cleared.
Cairo lives with you?
Yes, he does, which definitely makes our bond for work stronger. [We] interact together on a daily basis. Obviously, I’m biased because he’s mine, but he’s a beautiful dog. I absolutely love him. Being K-9 cops, these dogs are extremely highly trained, but at the end of day they’re still dogs and they’re going to do dog things. So, as much as you love them, they’re going to still have their moments when you’re like, ‘What the heck happened here? What did you do?’ He keeps me on my toes for sure.
Have you been in a situation where he saved you from harm?
He is always there to protect me, so every time I’m out there with him, I know he’s going to do what he has to.
The first time I deployed him, it was Christmas Eve. We had an accident where a car had flipped over and hit multiple parked cars. I was brought to the scene because the suspect had fled. Almost immediately as we were going into a track, Cairo lay down by a bush and alerted on a loaded weapon that had a bullet in the chamber. A lot of people were out that night, and someone could have gotten a hold of that and had a bad accident. He did his job and protected the whole community that night.
What else can he do?
Cairo is trained in obedience, tracking, area searches, building searches, narcotics work—and, of course, everybody knows these dogs for their aggression, aka bite work.
You’ve studied elementary school education and criminal justice in college. Do you like to work with kids and have that be part of your interaction with the community?
I definitely enjoy working with kids. They are innocent in nature and they’re just a blast to work with. They’re always asking questions, really funny questions sometimes. It’s important for them to become comfortable with us. We couldn’t do our job if it was not for the community’s cooperation. It helps if people understand that we’re there to help them, not create problems for them.
Are there challenges you face as a woman in law enforcement?
At the end of the day, I’m just a cop. Being a female hasn’t felt any different. Our department and community have never ever made me feel discriminated against in any way. I want the guys—or girls—in our department to know I can do my job just like anyone else.
Are there instances where you felt civilians were not taking you seriously because you are a woman?I can think of one incident where I felt like I was put out a little bit as a female. A guy had called to make a report. I showed up and he opened the door and said, ‘I want a male police officer here. You’re not a police officer.’ People have their opinions and beliefs and I can’t take it personally. I told him all our units were tied up and that if he’d like to call back and get someone else, he could. But I’m still a police officer and I’m here to help you if you would like my help. I’m not sure he ever did call back.
Do you have a best day on the job?
I don’t have any one best day. In general, I absolutely love my job, so the majority of every day is fun for me. It’s about the little things that occur throughout the day, those rewarding experiences, where you have someone come up and genuinely thank you for providing the service that you did or impacting their lives.
Do you have a worst or scariest day?
Any of our worst days as police officers would be those where we deal with child abuse. I do not enjoy taking any of those calls … but, unfortunately, we have to. I have had a few pretty bad calls of that kind.
Shortly before Live PD, we had a call about an unconscious baby. I was the first on the scene. It didn’t end well. The hardest thing was there was another child watching this occur, and knowing that the little brother was not going to come home. That was the hardest thing to see.
—Dena Ross Higgins