VIDEO: K-9 unit serves important purpose for Carson City Sheriff’s Office
For the Carson City Sheriff’s Office, the K9 unit provides a necessary tool that can’t be matched.
The unit consists of four handlers and their K9 partners whose purpose is to provide additional support to patrol officers in locating narcotics, locating people and assisting in physical apprehension.
Previously, the unit has been funded through community donations but now, Sheriff Ken Furlong said they’ll be going to the Board of Supervisors to ask for a $12,000 capital request to purchase a new dog.
“The program has been funded on the generosity of the community, but with the maturity of the program we believe it has become an important part of our organization and an item that should be in the budget,” Furlong said.
The request for the K9 funding will only be a one time request on this fiscal year’s budget to buy the new dog along with its proper training before it gets to Carson. All other training funds are absorbed in other internal operations funds in the department’s budget, but they’ll however, still accept and appreciate community donations to maintain the other four dogs, Furlong said.
“The donations dedicated made to the unit are dedicated strictly to the welfare and need of the dogs,” Furlong said. “We want the capital request because we believe the program has matured through donations to reach the level of a resource where donations shouldn’t be the driving factor to whether or not the unit can be afforded. It needs to be a piece of equipment and staffing. We are very thankful for the organizations, businesses and individuals who have helped to bring us this far, this is a compliment to them because of their generosity we have a fully functioning unit.”
While the unit may have five dogs for some time, as the K9s get older they’ll start to phase several into retirement and at that point the department will need to look again at asking for the capital request as K9 purchases are needed.
“It provides us some flexibility,” Furlong said.
But, the cost is worth it for the city and the department.
“The program is very effectively run and has had tremendous benefit to the community both as ambassadors and critical incident response,” Furlong said. “I love the unit, it is an essential element and resource of any law enforcement entity.”
For the department, the dogs help with a concept they call “paws before boots,” meaning the dogs can be inserted into situations that may be too dangerous for human officers.
“The dogs are often put into a situation where putting a person in would be more risky and more likely to result in harm to a deputy,” said K9 Sgt. Craig Lowe. “The dogs can also sense odor or locate narcotics because of the way it was hidden in a vehicle or home. The dog can go to the source of the odor to narrow a field of focus, saving time, reducing hazard to the officer; they have abilities through their senses that are enhanced more than ours. So they save time, they reduce risk and they are a heck of a lot faster when they run than most of us.”
In addition to their regular patrol duties, the unit is required by federal law to have at least 16 training hours a month and a yearly certification to assure the dogs and handlers are up to standards set for a K9 unit.
“The unit is one of the only units required by law to have documented training,” Lowe said. “That doesn’t include extra work my guys do outside of that and a lot of time they will do it on their own time, that is how dedicated to the program they are. But the dogs are constantly being trained, it is a lot of work for the handler and K9.”
Training situations vary, but they try to stick to four core components: obedience, narcotics, physical apprehensions via bites and tracking.
The dogs are trained with a variety of equipment and commands to indicate what their handler wants them to do.
“It is very equipment dependant,” Bindley said. “So like a human will have running shoes to go running and dancing shoes to go dancing, if I put a flat, non-corrective collar and connect a leash then he knows I want him to find drugs. There is a vest he wears every day if I click his leash into that then he knows I want him to track or find a bad guy. We also have commands, that he has learned from birth, that gives him instructions to do different things.”
The dogs and handlers are paired based on their personality compatibilities, as each dog has a mind and identity all its own.
For instance, K9 Ivo, though a force to be reckoned with when it comes to suspects, is scared of cats.
“We were searching a building where a burglary had occurred a few years ago and I deployed Ivo into the house to look for any suspects that may still be inside,” said Deputy Brett Bindley. “One of my partners gets on the radio and tells me my dog is cornered. So I go inside and there is this big fat cat in the kitchen and has Ivo into a corner and he is refusing to move.
“Ivo will bite a 250-pound, fighting, gnarly bad guy, but he is scared to death of cats.”
Or, K9 Tico can be a shoe thief. His handler Jimmy Surratt told a story about how Tico took off in their neighborhood one day and came back with a random sandal in his mouth.
“He has run up on someone’s front porch in the neighborhood a few houses down from ours and stole a sandal,” Surratt said, laughing. “I took the sandal away and located the house, checking it for chew marks cause I was dreading knocking on that door but there was nothing luckily.
“Now I have to watch him in the front yard cause now he wants to go up and down and look for shoes — that’s his niche now.”
But while on duty, the dogs are all business.
The K9 handlers agree the dogs are good for everyone in Carson City, as they not only help in criminal cases, but help bridge the gap between the public and law enforcement.
“I really enjoy the tie the dog allows us to have with the community, it is an icebreaker,” said Deputy Darrin Riggin. “People on the street are weary of law enforcement, some young people don’t know how to act, thinking they are going to get in trouble by seeing us. And it’s not that they are afraid of us, it’s more that they aren’t used to seeing a uniform or that they respect it, but as soon as they see the dog their faces light up and their personality changes. It allows us to talk to them on more of a human level and I think it humanizes the badge.”