Citizens Police Academy learns about important K-9 Unit -, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Citizens Police Academy learns about important K-9 Unit

Roscoe Roscoe
Alli Alli
Kelly Kelly

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The final class before graduation for the Myrtle Beach Citizens Police Academy focused on the K-9 Unit. The first police dog was brought onto the force in 2001. These dogs are valuable tools for the police department when searching for drugs, evidence, missing persons, or wanted subjects.

The Myrtle Beach Police Department currently has three dogs. Alli joined the force in 2011. She is an eight-year-old German Shepherd purchased by the Women’s Club of Myrtle Beach and then donated to the department. Alli’s handler is Corporal Chris Smith.

Roscoe is a German Wirehaired Pointer. He was a stray rescued by the police department. Roscoe started training in 2013 to be a police K-9. His handler is Officer Kenneth Harlow.

Kelly is a two-year-old Belgian Malinois. She is the most recent addition to the K-9 Unit. Kelly’s handler is Officer Michael Householder. She was donated by the Myrtle Beach Women’s Club in April 2015.

It can cost around $8,500 to $9,000 to purchase a police K-9. That cost typically covers the initial four-week training for the dog and the officer. The Myrtle Beach Police Department uses Custom Canine Unlimited, a group out of Georgia.

The dogs and officers must train at least 16 hours each week. That training includes socialization, tracking scents, and searching rooms or buildings. Since the dogs are a specialized tool for drug searches, they work in close conjunction with the Street Crimes Unit and the Drug Enforcement Unit.

The dogs are certified to detect five illegal drugs: heroin, meth, marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy. When the dog is released, the officer is watching for certain signs from the dog to indicate drugs might be at the scene or on a subject. If a dog is wagging its tail or licking its lips, those are considered positive indicators that drugs are nearby. When the dog sits and stares, that is the final signal that the dog is at the closest point of contact to the drugs. Cpl. Smith says each dog got between 98 percent and 100 percent on the drug certifications.

The dogs are also used to track humans. When tracking a wanted person or a missing person, the dogs can detect three different odors. Ecological odors would be the scents that come from broken grass after a person ran through a field or the woods. Reinforcing odors come from cologne, lotion, etc. And human odors are considered your skin and sweat. The three dogs on the K-9 Unit are trained to track the freshest scent.

These police K-9s are also trained to search for articles, which are considered firearms or knives. When doing this, the dogs are not smelling gun powder or metal. According to Cpl. Smith, they are tracking an unusual object with human odor on it in an environment where it does not belong.

Finally the dogs are also used for public appearances. All three dogs regularly visit schools, which helps make police officers seem more approachable to little kids.

“It kind of is a way to bridge the gap,” says Cpl. Smith. “Most of the time kids are scared of police officers because they’re in uniform and they have all this equipment. But bringing one of our canines in, the kids are able to feel a little bit closer with the police officer.”

Most police dogs will work six to nine years before retiring. The unit is hoping to add a fourth dog soon, which would allow them to have nearly 24-hour-a-day coverage. This would help cut down on response times.

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