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One week after Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell restored the right of state police chaplains to pray in Jesus’ name at public functions, only one of the six chaplains who resigned in protest two years ago has agreed to return.
“I was pleased and extremely excited the governor wanted this policy reversed,” said State Trooper Rex Carter, who has requested reinstatement to the volunteer post. “It allows us to move forward and to put this issue behind us.”
But First Sgt. Mike Honeker, who serves in the southwestern part of the state along with Trooper Carter, says he will not return to the chaplain program for now.
“This policy being changed really doesn’t affect the greater issue of religious freedom in America,” he said. “When prayer is restricted or suppressed at a town council, board of supervisors meeting or even a high school basketball game, a person’s right to express their faith is restricted. That’s a big problem in our country right now.”
Twin Falls County sheriff’s deputies tasked with sniffing out drugs and bad guys have keen senses, specialized training and, with increasing frequency, four legs.
When Sheriff Tom Carter took office in January, he wanted to turn up the heat on drug trafficking. He also knew the value of trained police dogs from his years as a law enforcement officer and supervisor.
Hence, the department’s K-9 unit grew from one dog to four.
“Right now we’re at about 10 times more arrests and convictions than we were a year ago,” Carter said, explaining that the expanded K-9 unit goes hand-in-hand with increased narcotics enforcement.
The four dogs are trained for narcotics detection. Three are also trained patrol dogs, known as dual-purpose dogs.
Senior Spc. Morgan Case could tell story after story of people who didn’t want to mess with the dogs and became less of a threat to officers.
Carter called Case one of the best law enforcement dog handlers in the Northwest. Twin Falls County’s dog handlers have 43 years of combined experience, he said.
“K-9 handling is a lifestyle. It’s not a job,” Case said. “If you get bit by a police dog, there’s probably a good reason.”
He said situations that escalate to where dogs bite are infrequent, adding that police dogs are trained to bite with their back teeth and hold, rather than rip with their front, canine, teeth.
“What these dogs do is a lot of prevention,” he said.
Case said some people have a misconception that police dogs are vicious, while they are actually trained to do exactly what they are told and no more.
Gator, a Malinois, came to Twin Falls County from Florida and is both a patrol dog and a drug sniffer.
Case walked Croix, a German shepherd, onto the dance floor at the Turf Club on Wednesday in front of more than 100 members of the Twin Falls Rotary Club.
Sgt. Dan Thom, one of the handlers, put on a “bite suit” and Croix attacked several times on command. He also stopped on command and received a toy as an award after.
“The dogs are not wild and out of control. He’ll go do it and then play his game,” Case said. “We don’t want a dog that is aggressive.”
Case cited incidents where a dog found evidence that a suspect had thrown into snow and one time where a police dog in Twin Falls found blood that snow had covered during a homicide investigation.
The dogs come tested and trained and cost between $7,000 and $10,000.
This year, dogs have sniffed several local schools for drugs.
“Our dogs’ value is in narcotics,” Case said.
By John Plestina
Following the attack of Liverpudlian James Parkes last month, former Mr Gay UK winner and full-time policeman, Mark Carter, has admitted that he suffered homophobic abuse as a result of the competition.
Speaking to PinkPaper.com, he said: ”Most people accepted me – in particular my family, friends and colleagues in the force.
“But I have also been to many incidents where I have had people just stopping, looking me up and down and shouting ‘You’re that gay bobby, aren’t you?’.”
He also told of how, after a break at Brighton, he arrested a man who had been shouting homophobic abuse at train passengers while off-duty. He chased the individual and pinned him to the ground.
“My thoughts are with the partner and family of my fellow officer PC Parkes and I am sure the investigating team will be doing all they can to bring his attackers to justice.”
He explained that however far we may have come, there is still work to be done.
“I was so angry when I read about this horrific attack, it shows that the shadows of homophobia are still there, under the surface of society.”
He then went on to add: “It is not about pushing the gay word up people’s noses. It’s about standing up for what is right.”
By Adam Lowe
After shots were fired by a passenger in a sports utility vehicle in downtown New Bern Saturday, Officer James Rowe with the New Bern Police Department K-9 Unit released his dog on the man.
The dog jumped through the window of the parked vehicle at the passenger, which drew a cheer from a crowd of onlookers gathered for one of several demonstrations by K-9 unit handlers as part of the MumFest 2009 festivities.
Rowe, senior handler and trainer for the K-9 unit, as well as Officer Thomas Carter demonstrated the obedience as well as the search and assistance abilities of Bak, a German shepherd from Czechoslovakia and Zorin, a Belgian Malinois.
In one demonstration, Bak searched four closed suitcases laid out in a row on the parking lot for marijuana. He scratches, barks and bites in the area where he has discovered drugs, Rowe said, as he is an “aggressive alert” dog trained to react that way.
In another simulation, Zorin, searched for one of the officers, who was hiding inside one of several large white boxes. Zorin trotted swiftly around the boxes, and then he barked and jumped on the box when he found the officer.
Then the crowd watched while Carter demonstrated how the dogs are trained in verbal and hand signals, commanding Zorin to sit, lie down and come. The verbal commands are issued in German, Carter said.
New Bern resident Owen Rose said the demonstration was an “awesome sight.”
The 7-year-old had stopped to watch the dogs with his parents after watching a man make balloon animals and the balancing and stunts of the Kenya Safari Acrobats.
He said the dogs’ abilities were “cool,” and that he was startled by the gunshot in the traffic stop demonstration.
“It would need to take a lot of training,” he said.
Claudia Rose commented that the traffic stop really showed the dog’s agility.
“We were just talking about the amount of training it takes, that these dogs go through with their handlers,” she said.
New Bern resident Mel Taylor had an opportunity to pet both Bak and Zorin after watching them demonstrate their abilities.
“They’re just beautiful dogs, highly trained and really good-natured,” she said. “I’ve got a soft spot for animals anyways, and I think it’s great that we’ve got such outstanding people protecting us in our police force and in our K-9 unit.”
By Laura Oleniacz
The Newton County Sheriff’s Office recently welcomed a new K-9 officer to its ranks, but with the addition of Chobe comes the retirement of 9-year-old Rin, a Belgian Malinois who has been working off and on with the NCSO for several years.
Rin retired to the home of his handler, Deputy Watkins but is finding it a bit hard to adjust to a life of leisure.
“Whenever I crank the engine [of his patrol car], he’s ready to go to work,” said Watkins.
He was purchased by Watkins from North Carolina but had spent his early years in Miami, possibly as a guard dog. According to Watkins, getting Rin to recognize who the Alpha male was in the relationship was a struggle at first, but one that was quickly overcome.
A certified trainer, Watkins worked with Rin and brought him on at the NCSO as an all-purpose dog in 2005. After a year, Watkins was called away by the military and spent several years serving his country overseas. While Watkins was gone, Rin didn’t work. When he returned, he started back with training but Rin was not needed at the NCSO at that time.
When newly elected Sheriff Ezell Brown took office, he and Chief Deputy Jerry Carter, were very keen on having Rin back on board. He was assigned to the traffic unit and assisted deputies on the interstate.
“I give all the credit to Rin coming back to Sheriff Brown and Chief Carter,” said Watkins. “They have been very supportive and Chief Carter also came and watched some of the training of Rin, which is very positive for him to be out there supporting the program.”
Most recently Rin has worked as a narcotics dog, assisting in several drug busts on Interstate 20. In his career, however, he has worked as a tracking dog, in handler protection and in criminal apprehension.
“It’s pretty hard to get out there without a narcotics dog,” said Watkins. “You just never know what you’re going to have when you make a stop.”
Although he still keeps up with his training at home with Watkins, his age is starting to show.
“His muzzle has whitened and his eyes are getting a little cloudy,” said Watkins’ wife Carrie. “He’s starting to move a little slower and there are days when he’s not feeling well and will lie in the house all day. I think his hearing and eyesight are leaving him, but Rinny’s nose is still very strong.”
Although Rin still has the desire and the ability to work, he is very much a family dog now. He plays with Watkins’ two boys, Conner and Kyle, and is very protective of 4-month-old Casey. But when given the chance, Rin’s still ready to work, jumping right into the patrol car and sitting down in his place in the back, eager to get back on the road.
“Rinny could still work,” explained Watkins. “His nose is still sharp; he still follows commands. But he’s just getting older.”
But until the time comes that he’s needed back at work, Rin can spend his retirement like most people do, relaxing. Although his brand of relaxation includes a shaded spot under the children’s trampoline and a rubber toy tire, perpetually hanging from his mouth.
Months after gaining national recognition in an Animal Planet TV series, St. Paul’s police canine unit got local attention in separate events this week, both offering backers good news in tight times.
On Wednesday, Chief John Harrington told the City Council that department leaders objected to an audit recommendation to cut the 22-officer unit by half, prompting Council President Kathy Lantry to say, “I’m against that,” too.
And on Thursday, the police department hosted a sun-splashed graduation ceremony for new K-9 teams at its training facility. While St. Paul had no dogs of its own in the 11-team graduating class, it did share its expertise with others, police spokesman Sgt. Paul Schnell said.
Harrington’s appearance before the council came five months after a “best practices” assessment of his department by Berkshire Advisors Inc., of Bay Village, Ohio, suggested a sharp cutback in the K-9 unit, which now has 21 officers overseen by a sergeant.
The Berkshire Advisors study looked at seven other “benchmark departments,” and found the average K-9 unit had 10 officers, with Minneapolis second to St. Paul with 19. In 2007, the report added, St. Paul had 961 calls requiring a K-9 response, or an average of 46 calls per officer that year.
The department’s K-9 deployment was “extremely large,” the report concluded.
Berkshire’s K-9 recommendation was but one of many subjects the chief touched on Wednesday. He said that department leaders had looked at the feasibility and desirability of many of the study’s recommendations, and that the K-9 cutback wasn’t desirable.
‘They’re force multipliers’
“It really just doesn’t fit how St. Paul operates,” he told council members. “It doesn’t fit our culture. It doesn’t fit our values of excellence.”
No one argued.
“Please don’t do [it],” Council Member Melvin Carter III said. “The dogs are cool,” especially when jumping.
“They’re force multipliers,” Lantry said. “It just isn’t that they’re cool.”
“Yeah, all that, but they’re cool,” too, Carter replied.
“They’re part of officer safety — getting the job done,” Lantry said.
“And they’re cool,” Carter continued.
To which Lantry conceded: “I think it is, of course, very cool, too. But, I mean, they do the work of another officer.”
Sometimes 10 officers, Harrington said.
On Thursday, at the Timothy J. Jones Canine Training facility, dozens of friends, family members and law-enforcement officers welcomed participants from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin into what St. Paul Assistant Chief Tom Smith called “the brotherhood and sisterhood” of K-9 handlers.
Dogs crawled under obstacles simulating porches. They leapt through barricades resembling windows. They climbed ladders. They grabbed hold of arms of fleeing “suspects.” They barked and they heeled.
All in all it was pretty cool.
City may lay off 4-legged officers
South Carolina’s pervasive economic downturn is threatening what was once one of the safest jobs in Columbia: being a police dog or a police horse.
About 16 police animals — 13 dogs and three horses — could be laid off by July 1 as the Columbia Police Department struggles to make its budget.
The department overspent its 2008 budget by $4 million and is already $2 million over budget for this fiscal year, which ends in June. With city revenues expected to fall $4 million next year, Chief Tandy Carter — hired last May — is proposing to cut funding for the department’s K-9 and mounted patrol units.
The department spends about $75,000 a year on horses and about $35,000 a year on dogs, according to Capt. Isa Green, who oversees the two units. That includes food, veterinary bills and shelter. It does not include salaries and benefits for the human officers who work with the animals; they would not be laid off.
If the funds are cut, the dogs would most likely stay with the police officers as pets, Carter said. The horses would probably be donated to other agencies.
City Council members, while they do not prepare the budget, have final say on what’s in the budget. Contacted last week, a majority of council members said they do not support eliminating the K-9 unit, but would support doing away with the horses.
The dogs are trained in tracking human scent and identifying hidden drugs. They also sometimes are simply intimidating: Suspects who might not be frightened of an officer can freeze in their tracks at the sight of the dogs.
Sgt. Andre Williams, who oversees the K-9 unit, estimates the dogs are called to duty about twice a week. The officers who handle the dogs are spread throughout the city’s four police regions but can go wherever they’re needed.
The mounted patrol mainly works the city’s parks, including downtown’s large Finlay Park. Carter said they serve as a public-relations tool more than anything else, which is why council members are more agreeable to cutting their funding.
“The mounted patrol to me is really ceremonial,” Councilman Daniel Rickenmann said.
The department has 13 dogs — Dottie, Jinx, Meca, Zena, Cole, Zeus, Max, Max (no relation), Zoro, Blue, Josephine, Jazzy and Bobo.
The mounted patrol had five horses, but two — Shiloh and Beorn — were killed in a 2007 car wreck. That left three horses — Harvey, a thoroughbred, and Brinx and Trouble, both quarter horses.
It was not clear if the department acquired more horses after 2007. Officials with the mounted patrol unit could not be reached for comment last week.
Police officers, by the nature of their dangerous jobs, have a special bond with each other — and the same is true of police animals.
When Shiloh and Beorn were killed in 2007, the department held a memorial service for them at Finlay Park that had a 32-horse procession from departments in Raleigh, Wilmington and Savannah, among others.
With police dogs, that bond is even closer. Columbia officers assigned to the K-9 unit keep the dogs at their homes when they are off duty.
Blue, a 13-year-old German Shepherd, was purchased from a breeder in The Netherlands and has been with Williams for his entire career.
“That’s my son,” Williams said. “I don’t have a boy. I have two girls, and Blue is my son.”
Zeus and Zena are brother and sister. So are Zoro and Dottie. Meca was donated from the Greer Police Department, while Josephine, the department’s lone bloodhound, was rescued from the side of the road.
To Carter, something has to give: It’s cut men or cut animals.
But several council members said Carter has options other than eliminating the K-9 unit, such as reducing the department’s overtime budget.
“I just don’t feel like the police department has been good stewards of the money they have been given,” Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine said.
Devine pointed to Woodcreek Farms, a subdivision off Clemson Road in Northeast Richland, at the farthest reaches of the city. The department does not assign officers to that area, but instead uses overtime to make sure it is patrolled.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Devine said. “You know it’s part of the city; you know the city has to do patrols out there.”
But Carter said when City Council members annexed Woodcreek Farms into the city, they did not give the police department more money or more officers to patrol the extra space.
“I think it’s a very good use of overtime,” Carter said. “Right now crime is down 10 percent. Crime would not be down 10 percent if we weren’t able to spread the resources.”
By Carrie Petersen
The next time you get a traffic ticket in Albany it may look a little different.
The Albany Police Department is making the switch to electronic ticketing or e-tickets, a system it had hoped would be in place last fall.
Working the bugs out of the program took longer than expected, but now the department’s two traffic officers are using hand-held computers — which resemble an oversized personal digital assistant — and portable printers to give out citations.
The tickets look like a shopping receipt.
The system is designed to help employees at the police department and at Albany Municipal Court.
What drivers do with the ticket remains the same: Go to court or pay the fine. They can’t handle it online.
Police Capt. Eric Carter and Robert Hayes, one of the department’s two traffic officers, said the system won’t necessarily save officers time on the street but will eliminate hours of data entry done by clerks at the police station and at municipal court.
They estimate that e-tickets will save more than 346 hours in data entry time and more than $10,000 in personnel costs each year.
Other benefits of e-tickets are legibility and less room for error, they said.
The system works like this:
During a traffic stop, the officer scans the driver’s license with the computer or manually enters the information. The officer enters other information, such as the driver’s speed, using the touch-screen.
The ticket is then printed on the portable printer, and the data are electronically uploaded for police and court records.
For now, only the traffic officers are issuing e-tickets, but police plan to have 10 hand-held computers in use later this year.
The cost for the software and computers at both the police station and municipal court was about $80,000, according to the police department.
The department now is working toward a grant that would allow it to upgrade the system to do “records checks” — looking to see if a driver has outstanding warrants or if the license is suspended.
It would also allow officers to complete traffic crash reports electronically.
The bright and early morning was pierced by the sounds of gunfire, rattling chain-link fences and shouting as law enforcement officials vied for the championship of the “Tough Cop” competition, part of the week long Georgia Police & Fire Games.
Nearly 20 men and women braved the series of physical challenges, which included pushing a truck 75 feet, scaling a 6-foot wall and shooting reactionary targets.