CLARKSBURG W.Va. (WV News) — A police officer’s K-9 partner not only can help the officer in the field, but also can impact the whole community’s safety and assurance that the best of the department is serving in the front lines.
The Harrison County Sheriff’s Office and Bridgeport Police Department have active K-9 officers that work alongside their human officers in investigations. With the help of these specially trained canines, police are able to do more in-depth investigations, according to officials with those departments.
In the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, canines are sectioned into two types of dog-and-handler teams, based on what the dog is trained to do, Sheriff Robert Matheny explained.
Four of the teams include multi-trained canines, specializing in drugs, apprehension and patrol work.
The fifth canine team is specifically trained for explosives and tracking.
One canine team is assigned to Mountaineer Highway Interdiction Team South, which is comprised of a deputy sheriff, a Clarksburg police officer, a Bridgeport police officer and a State Police trooper. Mountaineer Highway Interdiction Team South works throughout the county.
Three other canine teams are each assigned to specific rotating shifts.
The fifth canine team, the one trained in explosives and tracking, works with the Sheriff’s Department Southern District commander — Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Johnson
Johnson’s K-9 partner, Lotta, is a Labrador-Dutch Shepherd mix that helps her partner in numerous investigations.
“They basically become part of the family,” Johnson said. “The bond between the handler and the dog is a big part of whether or not the dog will work.”
That bond, from both the canine and the handler, starts immediately after the dogs begins training, he said. To be qualified for the training, as a puppy, the canine has to show a high drive, a willingness to work and a sense of confidence.
The training for handlers is 16 weeks, where they are given guidance on how to use the canine’s ability to help in law enforcement. The canines and the handlers also use the training as a time where both can get “comfortable” with each other and learn how to trust one another’s ability, Johnson added.
After the canines and handlers are finished with training, the dogs work about seven or eight years, depending on the dog’s abilities and police duties.
The teams are able to help their departments and communities using what they learned in training.
“For law enforcement to have a K-9 unit is a very good tool for them to have,”Johnson said. “They make an added person to the department.”
The abilities that the canines have is an asset to the success in a variety of cases, such as missing persons, bomb detection and searches for criminals.
“They have been a tremendous asset to the entire county,” Matheny said. “We share these assets to different agencies, and we all work together in helping all agencies with the canines.”
The Clarksburg Police Department is in the process of getting a canine, Chief Mark Kiddy explained.
“As far as I know, we have a 100% backing from the community,” Kiddy said. “It has been overwhelming as far as the donations.”
Sgt. Laura McGlone will be the handler for Clarksburg’s new canine.
“Dogs are invaluable, from everything from the drug work (the canine) is going to do,” McGlone said. “The dog is going to be a significant impact in helping us.”