SCA - Class 5
Welcome and thanks for joining me once again as we attend the Jasper County Sheriff’s Citizens’ Academy. Once again I’ll be your guide as we learn about the operations of the K-9 unit.
Arriving a little earlier than other times, Dad and I found seats. Most of the class was already there and a slide show was playing of the K-9 dogs. After watching the dogs in action with someone in a bite suit, Amber and Micaela and I were all very much disinclined to put on the bite suit. “I like my dogs friendly,” I mentioned. “Me too,” agreed Micaela.
After Sgt. Davis introduced us to Sgt. Tom Crossley, the other two K-9 officers introduced themselves. John works with Axo who is about to be retired from the department, having worked for nearly 9 years. Corporal Matt has Lisa who is the only bomb dog in MO south of KC. Sgt. Tom’s dog is Stagg. The other deputy in the K-9 unit is Joe, but he couldn’t make it to this meeting. He has two dogs. Copper is the bloodhound and really good and Gunny is the other Malinois. All of the dogs right now in the K-9 unit, except Copper, are Belgian Malinois. In look and shape they are like a smaller, lighter German Shepherd. Cpl. Matt said that one reason they use Malinois instead of German Shepherds is that the Shepherd, because it is such an old breed, has been in-bred so much that is is very susceptible to cancers and other problems including hip trouble while the Malinois is a young breed. “And much lighter, so it saves the wear and tear on your vehicle when they have to jump in and out so much,” Sgt. Tom told us.
We had a short power point about the K-9s and what they do and some things you should NEVER do. There are eight things the Malinois dogs in the force, with the exception of Lisa, do.
1. Obedience - This is the most important thing a dog must have. Without it the dog is useless to the department.
2. Drug and Evidence - When a dog is searching for drug evidence, they don’t just smell the drug. Instead a dog smells each scent separately. “That’s like us going to a pizza place,” Cpl. Matt explained. “When we walk in we smell pizza and we know there are pizzas. But if you were to take a dog in there, he would smells the flour, the salt, the cheese, the peppers, the pepperoni and all that is in the pepperoni. Each smell is separate and the dog puts them all together to create a ‘scent picture.’” So, when dogs are trained for drug finding, the trainers will get the pure drug that is unmixed with anything else and teach the dog with that. Later on they will use the “street stuff” that has other things mixed in it. But the dog, because he has learned what the drug itself smells like, doesn’t have any trouble recognizing it. People with drugs may try to hid the scent, or disguise it, but it doesn’t work with the K-9 dogs because they take each scent separately.
3. Tracking - I don’t think this needs much explaining. Copper is a tracking dog and some of the stories they told about him are incredible. One time he was called out to try and track a murder suspect. It had been three days since the crime had been committed near a river and there had been a rain storm in between. Copper picked up a scent and started following it. He went into town and ended up at the back door of a house. Then he began to circle the house several times. At this point the deputies called to ask about the house. They were told that the house was where the suspect lived. Suddenly Copper headed into the alley and went right up to a man on a bicycle who he began to lick. That is Copper’s way of saying “I found him.” It was the suspect. Another story about Copper is that he was able to track a person who got in a car, drove several blocks, got out again and walked away.
4. Building Search - If one of the dogs is searching a building, they will keep him on a lead.
5. Area Search - That is where the dog is searching the area for someone, whether it is a lost child or person, or a suspect or criminal.
6. Evidence Search - Dogs can find all kinds of evidence on the ground.
7. Handler Protection - All the dogs are taught to protect their handler. Sgt. Tom said that we’d never see his K-9 men following a suspect with a leash in one hand and a gun in the other. “What would happen if the suspect started shooting? The dog would go crazy trying to get that person and if the handler is trying to hang on to the leash, how in the world is he going to be able to shoot straight?” He has always told whatever patrolman is with him, “If there’s any shooting, I’m hiding until it’s over.”
8. Apprehension - If the suspect won’t give himself up for arrest and has been warned that a dog is going to be released, but still won’t give up, they’ll let one of the “bite dogs” loose. I watched one of those dogs do “bite work,” and people must be crazy if they think they can get away from one of them. Basically the dog’s job in apprehension is to engage the person until the officers can take over.
Lisa is the dog they take to schools. Her only roles are explosives, article searching and tracking. One time Matt took her to a school and suddenly Lisa pulls towards a closet and makes the biggest alert there that Matt or Sgt. Crossley had ever seen. Since Lisa is the bomb dog, that wasn’t something they really wanted to see happen and, not knowing what was in the closet, they called the “bomb boys.” It turns out is was full of Elmer’s glue. (There is something in the glue that could also be used as a component in a homemade bomb.
Here are a few thing not to do when it comes to K-9 dogs.
* Don’t get between the dog and his handler when the dog is working.
* Don’t ever get between the dog and the suspect. At least not unless you want bitten.
* Don’t feed the K-9 dogs.
* Don’t go up to a K-9 car and tap on the glass. That just makes the dogs mad.
* Don’t even pretend to fight with or get rough with a handler or you’re going to have a serious dog bite.
“When searching for drugs,” Sgt. Tom told us, “95% of the time we search vehicles. And most of that is after a patrolman stops a car and thinks there are drugs in it. And unless the car looks clean, I won’t let my dogs in it,” he said. “Because I don’t want my dogs getting hurt by anything that might be in it.”
We took a break then while John set a few things up outside. We were going to head outside to watch some of the dogs actually do some work.
While we were standing around waiting, Sgt. Tom was talking to a few people on one side of the room while Cpl. Matt was talking on the other. I listened in on a story the sergeant was telling. (Sorry, I didn’t catch the very beginning of it.)
He was driving down the road on Christmas Day and there was this donkey walking down the road ahead of him. Now, I’m not sure if he was just feeling in an ornery mood since he was out working on Christmas Day or what, but he picks up his radio. “Dispatch this is car - - -, we can’t get this guy to pull over.” And he yells out the window, “This is the Sheriff’s department, pull over!” But the donkey, being the stubborn animal that he is, won’t pull over. The patrol car’s lights and siren are going and Tom again picks up the radio. “Dispatch, we’re in a pursuit. It’s small, donkey grey in color and pursuit speed is 5 miles an hour.” Dispatch could hear the sirens and Tom shouting out his window to pull over. Well, the donkey still won’t heed the instructions, so Tom turns to the rookie who is riding with him, “Get ready to jump from the car. We’re going to do a foot pursuit.”
“This is going to get us in trouble,” Rookie says doubtfully.
“I’m your superior and that’s an order. I’ll take any blame.” Then he picks up his radio and calls in again, “Dispatch, we’re about to start on foot pursuit!”
Needless to say, his superior wasn’t too happy about those calls and firmly told him never to call in on Christmas Day about a donkey again. What could Tom say but, “Yes, Sir.” But, a little while later a call came in about a cow on the road. “I just couldn’t resist,” he said with a grin. “And he had said a donkey on Christmas Day and this was a cow in the middle of the week.” Again he picked up his radio and called in. “Dispatch this is car - - -. We’re in a pursuit. Small, bovine in color with white markings, pursuit speed 10 miles an hour.” Well, his supervisor heard about it and ordered him to his office. There an even higher officer came in and, once he stopped laughing, asked, “Weren’t you told not to do that again?” “No, sir,” Tom replied. “I was told not to call on Christmas Day about a donkey, sir. This was a cow in the middle of the week.” The officer begged him never to do anything like that again. Two days later there was another cow in the road. “I was tempted,” Sgt. Tom told us laughing, “but decided I better not.”
Once we got outside, we were told that a certain vehicle had some drugs in it and three members of the class were given the chance to find it. They each had a flashlight and went to work. After nine minutes they still hadn’t found it. “In all the classes I’ve done,” Sgt. Tom said, “not one time has anyone found the drugs.” Then John got Axo out. It took him 1 minute 28 seconds to alert on the car and find the exact location in it.
Our next demonstration was Lisa. Matt took her out and had her search a large shed for explosive components. She found them. When Lisa or Axo alert on a scent, they both sit or lie down as close to it as possible and wait until their favorite toy appears. (That’s how they reward the dogs.) But Stagg has an aggressive alert, and if Tom doesn’t pay attention or isn’t watching, he’ll try to dig through anything to get to it or will drag Tom back to the same place until his toy appears.
After Lisa found the place where the explosives were hidden, she got to chase her tennis balls. It was really fun to watch her.
Our last demonstration was with the “bite suit.” Jordan offered to wear it. It was a very stiff and thick jacket. Everyone else lined up beside the cars in the parking lot and I think a few were slightly anxious that Stagg might decide that they were the ones he was to attack. Stagg, on first seeing us, wanted to come over and say hi, but then he saw the bite suit and his tail went up and his ears went forward. It was play time! All the commands are given in German though we were never told why. It was quite something to see that dog go from a crouched position on the floor to launching himself at Jordan! After doing it twice, Jordan was done and his jacket taken off. Sgt. Tom then took Stagg over to Jordan and told him he was a friend. “If I didn’t do that,” he told us, “any time he saw Jordan he would think he was supposed to attack him.” As soon as he was told Jordan was a friend, Stagg’s tail wagged and he looked quite pleased when Jordan patted him.
Right after that Sgt. Davis came out and said class was officially over. Everyone left except Dad & me and two others. Since Dad had asked a question, we hung around and listened. Sgt. Tom likes to talk and we didn’t end up leaving until 9:40.
That was a long class and a long report. I hope you have enjoyed it. Come back next week as we . . . head to jail? Hmm, perhaps you’d rather not. If you do decide to join me, I’ll be here. Until then, this has been Rebekah.