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Man’s best friend is a vital asset to the law enforcement community. K-9 officers use their dogs to help with foot chases, finding contraband and they can even sniff out bombs. But the officers and the dogs must continually train to keep their skills sharp. Certifications can expire on K-9 units, but the chance for re-certification is going on in Raleigh County.
The firing range and surrounding property for the Beckley Police department is being transformed into a proving ground of sorts. It is where K-9 officers from across West Virginia and three other states have come to prove that their animals still have what it takes to continue service as K-9 units. Re-certification is taking place at this annual event, where handler and dog get real-world tests.
“We have real live shooting, bring the dogs into that. We have search areas set up for all the dogs,” said Will Reynolds, a K-9 officer with the Beckley Police Department.
But Artemis, the Beckley Police Department’s new bloodhound K-9, is by no means weak. City officers say her powerful sense of smell — 100 times stronger than a human’s — will help police find fleeing suspects and missing children.
Beckley P.D. has, according to a release, had great success in its work with German shepherds and Rottweilers. These dogs were used for narcotics detection, tracking and suspect apprehension. The opportunity later arose to increase the K-9 unit’s size to four and expand its overall capabilities.
The department obtained Artemis (a.k.a. “Artie”) from 832 K-9’s Deputy Dogs, Kody Snodgrass Memorial Foundation. The organization, according to its Web site, is dedicated to providing law enforcement agencies with bloodhounds trained for police work and at little or no charge.
Duke and Angie Snodgrass started the foundation in memory of their son, Lake County (Fla.) sheriff’s Deputy Kody Snodgrass. Kody Snodgrass, a bloodhound handler, was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2001.
Drake, Helo and Vinnie are German shepherds that may look mean at first glance.
But the Beckley Police Department wants to let law-abiding citizens — particularly young people — know the dogs and the officers who handle them are their friends and protectors.
Cpl. Will Reynolds, a Beckley K-9 officer and Helo’s handler, said the department’s K-9 officers are available for demonstrations. Upon request, an officer/dog duo can visit schools, youth organizations, scout troops, churches, retirement homes, after-school programs — practically any Beckley-based organization.
Reynolds said K-9 officers get frequent requests for demonstrations, and they want to give back to a community that has helped the K-9 unit. When Reynolds’ original partner, a Rottweiler named Merlin, died in March, donors paid $6,000 of Helo’s $10,000 price tag.
During the demonstrations, Reynolds said officers will show people what the dogs do, what their capabilities are and how important they are as officers fight crime. Officers particularly want to reach young people because these demonstrations are also part of an anti-drug campaign — and the demonstrations have shown they have impact on youngsters.
“Our kids are the future of this world,” Reynolds said. “They’re the ones who will be soon making important decisions out there. I’ve done demonstrations four years ago, and the kids still remember the dog and what the dog does. I’ll hear them say, ‘Hey, this is the officer who brought the big dog.’ …If we can change one kid’s life, we’ve done something.”
Reynolds said any interested person can call Beckley P.D. at 304-256-1720 and leave a message for him. He will then get back in touch and schedule a day and time for either himself or one of his two fellow K-9 officers, Cpl. R.E. Redden (Vinnie’s handler) or Cpl. David Bailey (Drake’s handler), to visit.