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Canine Control

Five K-9 police dogs now protect Jefferson County, Ind.

Their handlers say the time spent
in training is ‘well worth it’

(March 2015) – Off the well-beaten tourist trail in downtown Madison, Ind., stands the City Garage, sandwiched in a hollow between U.S. Hwy. 421 and a creek. Dump trucks, pick-up trucks, barrels, the city’s SWAT truck, some coal and bags of recycled cans occupy the site. It’s not on most people’s “must-see” list.
On a steamy overcast afternoon last summer, the place was like Thanksgiving for the most diligent of Jefferson’s County law enforcement officers: Its unpaid squads of K-9 Dogs. With noses at least 1,000 times more sensitive than the human nose, the K-9 dogs trained with their handlers on a difficult site, where the damp air smelled of crack cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine. Breezes shifted the aromas of drugs, sometimes confounding the dogs. Although the large site presented a tough challenge, all the dogs found the drugs placed under vehicles, tucked into fence posts or hidden under the rags.
Five dogs now are law enforcement officers with three agencies in Jefferson County. Handlers and their dogs are Capt. Rick Mundt, 43, and his German Shepherd, Eros, 3; Patrolman Ricky Harris, and his German Shepherd, Max, 5, both with the Madison Police Department; Sgt. Andrew Sims, 26, and Champi, his Belgian Malinois, 22 months, Hanover Police Department; Deputy Josh Cochran, 26, and Glock, his Belgian Malinois, 2; and Deputy Ben Flint, 31, and Meko, his Belgian Malinois, 2, both with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. 

RoundAbout March cover
March 2015
Edition Cover

All are “dual purpose canines,” Mundt said. They detect drugs on “odor detection duty,” intervene during a burglary in process, search for stolen articles or search buildings for hidden offenders and locate missing persons or track suspicious people. Every month, they average about 16 hours of training.
“As you can see, this is like a disease for us,” said Sims. “We live for it. It takes a ton of work, but once you start doing it, it’s awesome. You get to see your dog improve.”
In late June, Sims and his dog, Champi, graduated from the Little Rock Canine Academy. While in training, Champi injured his leg. Upon recovery, he went back to work.
“He’s on the job 100 percent,” said Sims. Right away, Champi “locked in” on the smell of crack cocaine and found it in the SWAT truck.
Known for speed, agility and endurance, the Belgian Malinois is becoming more popular in law enforcement, second only to the German Shepherd in popularity.
When it was time for Eros to train, officers described him as “a horse, a Shetland pony,” adding “Rick (Mundt) has the prettiest dog in the tri-state area.”

Ben Flint

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Flint poses with his police dog “Meko,” a Belgian Malinois breed.

Weighing in at 92 pounds, Eros is impressive with his long black and tan coat and his soulful German Shepherd face. He worked hard for his handler. When he found drugs, he sat quietly and looked at Mundt in a “passive alert.” Later, he tracked smell by ground disturbance and apprehended an uncooperative person.
The most popular breed of dogs for police work, the German Shepherd, is known for its size, keen intelligence and strong work ethic.
When his turn came to train, Glock shot away from his handler like a rocket. Head swaying and working off lead, he flew through the exercise. Within seconds, he nailed 16 grams of heroin at the fence post.
“I trust him enough that he’s going to work the wind current and tell me where the drugs are at,” Cochran said. “Glock is good at getting out of his comfort zone.”
Cochran uses Randy Hare’s On-Target Detection Method as reinforcement. When he finds the drugs, Cochran engages him in a tug-of-war. “He gets to fight with me at the source of the odor. His reward is to fight with me. The whole time we’re fighting, he’s breathing in the drug odor and associating that with the fight. He’d never get this experience anywhere else.”
Both Cochran and Flint use this method. “Our dogs think their tennis balls appear from the source of the odor,” Cochran said.

Andrew Sims

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Hanover, Ind., Police Department Sgt. Andrew Sims poses with his police dog “Champi,” a Belgian Malinois breed that is popular for law enforcement.

That morning, Flint and Meko had been certified by the International Police Work Dog Association for work with narcotics. They arrived later for the exercise, but Meko was not allowed to rest on his laurels. Flint took him through the same exercises as the other dogs, and he found all the hidden drugs.
Later, Cochran suited up in a heavy red “bite suit” to let the officers and dogs practice stopping an uncooperative person who is behaving suspiciously. As Cochran shuffled in the grass, yelling and waving like an animated red marshmallow, the dogs strained at their leashes.
When ordered to apprehend, it took less than a second for the dogs to bite the “suspect.” Champi climbed up his back, bit him and didn’t let go. He hung on fiercely as Cochran swirled to get him off. Glock and others bit him on an arm. There was no letting-go until ordered by the handler. Even then, they were not happy. Eros moaned in distress.
Veterinarians at the North Madison Veterinary Clinic and The Pets Doc Veterinary Clinic provide for basic veterinary care. Dog food is furnished from the Sheriff’s Commissary Fund. Donations are needed for anything beyond basic needs.
Emergency veterinary care can be an issue when a dog is referred out of Jefferson County because immediate payment often is required. 

Josh Cochran

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Josh Cochran wrestles with “Champi” during a training exercise while wearing a special protective suit.

Besides Laykos, two other K-9 dogs have served the City of Madison and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. Mike Sims trained his dog, Thunder, while he was a reserve officer for the county. Buck had a long tenure with former Jefferson County Sheriff Bill Andrews and the Madison Police Department.  
After a rigorous three hours of training, there was a naive request for a group picture, a photographer’s vision of world leaders solving border disputes. Mundt and Eros sat down first, but Champi, feeling testy, wanted nothing to do with those two, especially “Pretty Boy.” With Sims, he managed to sit about five feet away but snarled his disgust for the whole situation. Glock determined that a distance of 10 feet in the opposite direction was close enough for a frivolous picture. A veil of mutual canine distain hung over the scene. The idea of a group photo was dropped. 
You can get these dogs to do just about any kind of work, Mundt said, in effect, but you can’t get four “Alpha Dogs” to sit down together for a simple picture.
What kind of sissy work is that?

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