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At 6 years old, German shepherd K-9 Vinnie surely isn’t a puppy anymore.
But this week, he and his two four-legged “co-workers” are proving older dogs can learn more than new tricks as they take on building searches and work under simulated gunfire, to name a few.
Since Monday, the Beckley Police Department’s three K-9 teams have been attending the West Virginia Police K-9 Association’s conference in Barboursville. Cpl. R.E. Redden, one of Beckley’s K-9 officers and Vinnie’s handler, said the conference is where the state’s K-9 officers obtain their required yearly re-certification and train under “realistic” conditions both officers and dogs would face on the job.
Redden estimated he and Vinnie, Cpl. Will Reynolds and German shepherd Helo and Cpl. David Bailey and German shepherd Drake were among 80 to 100 K-9 teams from across the state who attended.
Training at the conference first involved standard K-9 work for which Beckley’s dogs are certified — tracking, patrol/suspect apprehension functions and narcotics detection, Redden said.
Explosive detection training was offered to those who have bomb-sniffing dogs.
Also, the conference incorporates “realistic” scenarios officers face on the job, Redden noted, including building searches and working under simulated gunfire.
“Whatever situations we face with our dogs, they simulate up here,” he said.
One of the most beneficial aspects of the conference, Redden said, is that it pairs K-9 officers with instructors and evaluators from across both West Virginia and Virginia.
These are people who can view an officer’s work or their dogs with a fresh set of eyes and offer different opinions or training techniques. Several are veteran instructors, Redden remarked.
Reynolds, the most experienced K-9 officer of the three, also worked as an evaluator, Redden noted.
Having more time to work with their dogs and one another was also a plus, Redden said.
Beckley’s K-9 officers are staggered between shifts to keep a K-9 officer on duty at all times. They also have different days off. Even scheduling time to train together on their own time is often difficult.
Opportunities like this, he said, give the officers the chance to even learn more from one another.
For example, Vinnie’s and Drake’s commands are in German, but Helo’s are in Dutch.
The K-9 officers are now learning commands in the opposite language.
Redden said the K-9 officers will bring the training back to Beckley, where it will benefit the citizens.
The officers said they are grateful to Chief Tim Deems for allowing them to go.
“We will come back to Beckley with improved dogs,” he said. “What we have done all week long will reinforce our skills, and we will bring this back to get drugs off the streets and do patrol work.”
Soddy-Daisy police officers did not receive Taser training until the past couple of weeks, but the officer who stunned a man who later died received previous Taser certification, records show.
Officer Melissa Daniels previously received Taser training through Chattanooga police, Soddy-Daisy Chief of Police Phillip Hamrick said. Because certification is individual to each officer, police remain certified even when they transfer agencies, he said.
However, Red Bank city records show that Officer Daniels — then Melissa Varner — provided paperwork showing she was certified to use a Taser upon her graduation from the Cleveland State Police Academy in 2004, records show.
Officer Daniels was employed with Red Bank from December 2004 through June 5, 2006, said Red Bank City Manager Christopher Dorsey. During that time, Red Bank officers did not possess Tasers, so Officer Daniels did not carry one, he said.
Officer Daniels’ paperwork about her Taser certification has been turned over to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the death of Roger Redden, 52. Mr. Redden died Jan. 22, about two weeks after Officer Daniels used a Taser on him.
Chattanooga officials said Thursday they could not immediately determine whether Officer Daniels received training through the city’s police department.
Officer Daniels could not be reached for comment, and Chief Hamrick said she would not be available for comment because of the pending investigation.
In August, the Soddy-Daisy City Commission approved the purchase of 10 Taser units and training for officers, according to Times Free Press archives. Chief Hamrick and two other supervising officers did not receive their certificates to train Soddy-Daisy officers until December, the chief added.
Eight officers currently carry them, but were not allowed to do so until they received proper training at the end of January and early part of February, Chief Hamrick said.
According to the police report from the incident with Mr. Redden, on Jan. 4, officers were called to 9921 Dayton Pike on a disturbance call and found Mr. Redden without clothes and throwing things around the house. When he would not calm down for police and because there was a continuous struggle, Officer Daniels stunned him on his left leg, left arm and upper chest, according to the report.
The Taser, which has a camera attached to it, recorded the scene, Chief Hamrick said.
“They automatically come on,” he said, referring to the camera. “The tape was turned over (to the sheriff’s office) in the most recent one.”
One of the supervisory officers on the scene during the incident — Sgt. Larry Neighbors — also was involved in a DUI traffic stop of Mayor Gene Shipley’s uncle on Jan. 1.
According to a police report from that incident, Sgt. Neighbors told another officer his job would be in jeopardy if he did not release the mayor’s uncle.
The Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the DUI incident.
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.