Those enrolled in the London City Police Department's Citizens Police Academy got a first-hand look at the canine operations during last week's session held at the city police department.
Officer Greg Turner arrived with his K-9 dog, Tyson, to demonstrate how the highly trained animal could detect illicit drugs inside vehicles during a brief demonstration in which Tyson quickly alerted to some drugs under the hood of a vehicle. Turner explained that K-9 dogs serve various roles in police departments, with Tyson used for drug investigations.
Turner said Tyson was trained to alert only on narcotics and was trained to detect marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin - the four most popular drugs found in drug investigations. He added that Tyson could also detect ecstasy, although that drug is rarely found in this area. Turner said Tyson was beneficial in that he could detect the odor of these drugs even if the actual product was not currently present.
"Marijuana odor seeps into the seats and he can detect that smell, even if the marijuana is not present at the time," Turner said. "Tyson alerts to the smell and we've had stops when he would alert but we wouldn't find anything. A man once said he had used marijuana a few hours before but Tyson still picked up the smell."
A search under the hood of the seized vehicle parked in the city police department's back lot soon confirmed Tyson's suspicions during Tuesday's class - a white bag was concealed near the quarter panel under the hood with a plastic bag of marijuana inside it.
"Even though this is in a plastic bag, Tyson could smell it and alerted on it," Turner explained.
But while Tyson is geared to sniff out illicit drugs, the department's other K-9 dog, Jack, assists in narcotics and tracking investigations.
"If we have a foot pursuit, we can use Jack to follow the trail of the person," Turner said. "If there is a crime where someone is stabbed and the knife is thrown in a field, Jack is used to find it. When he does, he just sits down by it and never touches it."
Both Jack and Tyson are Belgian Malinois breeds, which are similar to German Shepherds but are of a smaller stance. Turner said the shepherd dogs sometimes weighed up to 90 pounds while the largest Malinois only weigh in around 68 pounds. That smaller size allows the department's two K-9 dogs to maneuver in smaller areas than the shepherds could do.
Turner explained to the dozen people enrolled in this session of the Citizens Police Academy that the dogs are invaluable resources to assist police in many investigations. He also said that dogs differ immensely in their own personalities.
"If I don't keep Tyson on his leash, he will tear things up. We can let Jack run loose and he doesn't do that," he added. "Dogs are smart and each one is different."
After that demonstration, the participants finished the remainder of the session by learning about investigation and questioning tactics.
The Citizens Police Academy gives individuals a birds-eye view of the police officer's many duties. This session has included a DUI stop and sobriety tests and the role of the K-9 units in various investigations. Remaining classes will include learning about the Special Victims Unit such as those who have been exposed to sexual offenses. A tour of the new Laurel County Correctional Center is another session set for the academy.
City Police Information Officer Magen Zawko said the final sessions of the classes would involve letting participants work together to solve a crime. A formal graduation ceremony will wind down this session of the Citizens Police Academy.