|Local police dogs earn top recognition in association trials|
|Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor|
March 20, 2004 -- Hopkins County and Sulphur Springs law enforcement cleaned up at the United States Police Canine Association K-9 Certification and Field Trials held last week, bringing home a total of 11 trophies from the McKinney meet.
All five canine teams from Hopkins County - Tactical Narcotics Team Task Force Sgt. Harold McClure and canine Arron; Hopkins County Sheriff's Cpl. Michele Peek and canine Body, and Deputy Adam Herrmann and canine Tanja; and Sulphur Springs Police Cpl. Jason Ricketson and canine Sony, and Sgt. "Buddy" Cleve Williams and canine Timmie - also earned certification in tracking, narcotics detection and patrol.
"All five put in a great deal of time and training," Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jim Bayuk said Tuesday. "They do a good job and the citizens should be proud. It's totally amazing how these dogs perform. I congratulate all five on their performance at the United States Police Canine Association trials held in McKinney."
Hopkins County Sheriff's Deputy Adam Herrmann and canine Tanja, who have been paired up for only about a year, took third place in the tracking.
"We competed in narcotics last year but not patrol," Herrmann said Tuesday afternoon. "I've had her about a year. We got placed in tracking. We only trained in that for about two months."
Williams and Timmie also worked with canine-officer teams from Texarkana, McKinney and Lewisville Police Departments in the four-man team contest for which they were awarded the first place overall patrol team title.
Herrmann and Tanja along with Peek and Body also teamed up with canine-officer teams from the University of Texas and Roanoke in a four-man team contest. They earned third place overall in the team event. Both Herrmann and Peek's canines received certifications in the narcotics detection, tracking and patrol dog one divisions, as did the three other officer-canine teams from this area.
"Jase and I like to team up together, but Sony had surgery recently," Williams said Tuesday morning. "He's back at about 95 percent capacity, but we didn't want to take a chance with him. He did everything but the agility test, which he automatically lost 60 points for but still received a passing score of 70 percent or more that's required to get the certification."
Ricketson and Sony took first place in the criminal apprehension phase and in the obedience phases and second in the article search phase of the patrol certification contest. Sony did not compete in the agility contest due to the recent surgery.
The team of Timmie and Williams also earned second place recognition in the suspect search and third place in agility in the patrol trial, figures high enough to earn the pair a third place overall patrol dog ranking in the patrol certification trials. Williams and canine Timmie earned second in building search and third overall in the narcotics phase of the contest.
"This, the USPCA certification and field trials, is something we go to every year to certify so we can use the dogs on the street for narcotics and patrol," Williams said. "There were 34 dogs that competed and were at the trials."
"The city and county has a lot of money invested in these canines," Bayuk said. "You have to keep in mind that these dogs are a tool. The officers are the ones that make the stop and contact with people. The dog is a very beneficial tool the officers utilize. They make the officers' job a whole lot easier."
For each competition or certification, participants must earned 70 percent or higher of the total attainable points for that contest. Those testing in narcotics detection can earn up to 200 total points, which are awarded based on the officer-canine team's performance on a building search for two items and a vehicle search for two items. Points are awarded not only on the dog's performance, but also how well the officer reads his dog, leash control, search patterns.
The patrol trials is broken down into five phases - criminal apprehension, obedience, suspect search, article search and agility - for a possible 700 points total.
In the criminal apprehension phase of the patrol trials, points are awarded for how well the dog maintains control and how well the officer can control the dog, how well the officer is able to abruptly stop their dogs prior to reaching the suspect, whether the dog can be easily called back, how well the dog controls its bite, and how well it responds to cues from the handler rather than taking off on its own.
In obedience, the dog is judged on how well it heals to its handler, including response to distance controls or hand and voice signals.
During suspect search, the officer-canine team is required to determine which of six boxes, all 4-foot by 4-foot in size placed about 40 feet apart in each rows with 80 feet between the two rows, has a person hiding inside of it. The canine is required to distinguish the difference between the odor of a human that has previously been the boxes and an odor of a human actually still inside of the box. The dog alerts on the box by giving a scratching or barking to signal a find.
The fourth phase of the patrol trial, article search, places the canine in a 30 by 30 square foot area, in which they must find two articles which can by anything from a small piece of leather to a matchbox or screwdriver. One example of the practicality of this exercise played out in the real situation could be an instance in which a murder suspect fled on foot with with a weapon, which was then dropped. The dog would then be used to find the weapon and lead officers to it without actually disturbing the evidence. One instance the canines were used in Sulphur Springs involved a purse snatching incident. The man ran through a field, and the dog was able to find the purse without disturbing it, Williams explained.
The agility phase tests the canine's ability to overcome obstacles, often requiring them to jump hurdles, walls, crawl under wires, climb ladders up to a catwalk where it would remain on the platform until its handler commanded it otherwise.
Williams indicated that this year's contest would likely be "Timmie's last go round at this," as he will likely retire the Timmie when the dog turns eight.
"These trained dogs in retirement, basically retire as the family pet," Bayuk said. "They are very loving and very protective of their handlers."