Local police dogs on the job
K-9 Units perform in a variety of law enforcement roles
By JOHN RECH
Bad guys beware of the dog. The combined county task force always has a K9 on duty. Between the Crittenden County Sheriff, the West Memphis Police and the Marion Police, one or more police dogs is on duty and the dogs on duty go anywhere around here needing help. The canines come in a variety of breeds and trained in a number of roles.
The kind of dogs breeds in service included Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherd, German Shepherd, and a Labrador. Handlers look for high energy dogs that relish training time. Most of the K9 in the county were imported from Europe. Some were schooled there and some take training in the United States. Officers train their dogs regularly with other mid-south K9 officers. Sometime the training takes place at Tier One Group (T1G) near Crawfordsville.
Sheriff Lt. Darrell Prewitt said regular K9 training kept
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West Memphis Patrolmen showed off their narcotic detection dogs. Chris McElroy (left) handled a Belgian Malinois named, Sammie. The duo worked together for more than two years. Cody Gross handled the new dog on the block, Bonnie. The German Shepherd has been on the job for a month.
Photos by John Rech
Marion Officer David Houghton showed of the new vest on his Dutch Shepherd, Zoro. The pair work narcotics together. The MPD was set to receive a new second dog today.
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dog as and handlers sharply focused on their roles. Prewitt himself handles a dual role dog named Zubin. Zubin searches for narcotics and has training in apprehension. His bite goes with his bark.
‘We train minimum of 16 hours a month,” said Prewitt. “I train a little more because Zubin is a dual role dog. Most of us go to Southaven every Wednesday to train with dogs from the mid-south area. We do a lot with Tier One Group. They have really helped us out with their facilities for narcotic detection and explosive training.”
The dogs while at at T1G learn to deal with distractions like loud noise and music and working under gunshot fire according to Prewitt.
Each dog is trained in one or two roles to assist law enforcement agencies. Drug detection, bomb detection, and search and rescue dogs help local officers do their jobs. There are no cadaver dogs in the county but search and recovery dogs are on call from Shelby County. West Memphis owns a pair of drug dogs working on opposite shifts. Marion has two drug dogs, taking delivery of its second dog today. The county has a bomb sniffing Labrador and a dual role drug and bite dog.
Sheriff Mike Allen said Officer Cole Strahan handled a nationally certified explosive detection dog.
“We got our bomb dog on a Federal grant,” said Allen, “so we’re required to be on call all over the region. The dog has done searches in the county, Forrest City, and Jonesboro.”
West Memphis Police Lt. Brent Bradley said the K9’s work suspicious traffic stops in the city daily.
“There are multiple calls a day when we make traffic stops,” said Bradley. “They help establish probable cause to search vehicles. They help with search warrants for narcotics. If an officer feels like a person in a car has discarded items the dogs will get out and search for those. The county K9 assisted us last night with that.”
Marion Assistant Police Chief Brannon Hinkle is a certified trainer for explosive and narcotics. He said his department was set to receive another K9 officer today. The dog is trained in two roles.
“He’ll be a tracking and explosive K9,” said Hinkle. “Our other dog is for narcotics.”
Lt. Prewitt thanked county citizens for support of the K9 cops.
There is a lot of training here inWest Memphis and Marion,” said Prewitt. “We’ve been really good with the West Memphis School District. They use us to sweep the schools and parking lots periodically. They have allowed us to do active shooter training and rescue training. We have a tremendous community that allows us to train and use their facilities.”
A pair of dogs benefited from a recent grant award giving them body armor vests. Axle with the sheriff department sported a new protective vest. Marion K9, Zoro also landed a vest from a private non-profit. The American made custom fitted vests came through grants awarded to each department from Vested Interest in K9’s Inc, a 501 (c) (3). each vest weighed 4-5 pounds and valued around $2,000. To donate toward a vest search www.vik9s.org.
Sheriff Deputy K9 handler John Rolland posed with his Belgian Malinois, Axle, in his new vest. The vest offered increased protection from bullet and stab wounds.