Spartacus, a Belgian Malinois trained in narcotics detection and tracking, was found dead Monday night inside the car, which was parked outside his handler’s home.
The unidentified officer, a 9-year veteran of the department, was placed on paid leave, a police spokeswoman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The spokeswoman said Spartacus was the second K-9 assigned to the officer. The first, after retiring, became his family pet and still lives with him.
In addition to an internal investigation, the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, which responded to the officer’s home Monday night, is investigating the dog’s death.
A necropsy determined the cause of death was heat stroke.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 20th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, car, death, dog, dogs, georgia, handler, heat, heat related, heat stroke, investigation, K-9, k9, law enforcement, patrol car, pets, pickens county, police, spartacus, woodstock
What’s a working dog to do? You learn your trade, hone your skills, toil away, only to find out that the world around you has evolved to a point where those skills are no longer much appreciated.
It’s why you can’t find a blacksmith too easily nowadays. It’s what happened to the elevator operator, the milkman, and, at least from my biased and disgruntled point of view, the newspaper reporter.
Such too was the case with Phelan, a marijuana-detecting Labrador retriever in the employ of the police department in Lakewood, Colorado.
With the passage by Colorado voters of Initiative 502 — legalizing the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana — the skill Phelan was best known for is no longer much in demand there.
In fact, his biggest asset has become a liability, the News Tribune reports.
Phelan was handed his pink slip this week and sold to the state Department of Corrections, where, in his new job, his inability to distinguish between marijuana and other drugs won’t be a problem — all drugs being illegal behind bars.
The same story is playing out in Washington state, where voters also legalized marijuana use, and where police departments are figuring out whether to cease training new dogs in marijuana detection, put their existing dogs through ”pot desensitization” training or just retire them and send them out to pasture, according to the Associated Press.
Take it from me, pasture sucks. Dogs and people, I think, prefer having a mission.
But Phelan’s mission, at least in the two states where moderate amounts of marijuana are now permitted, no longer much needs to be accomplished. Worse yet, alerting to small amounts of marijuana could mess up prosecutions in cases involving other, still illegal, drugs.
Say Phelan alerted to drugs in the trunk of a car. Phelan’s inability to distinguish between heroin and marijuana — or at least specify to his handler to which he is alerting — means any subsequent search by officers could have been based on Phelan detecting an entirely legal drug, in an entirely legal amount.
That means the “probable cause” the search was based on might not have really existed, and that means any evidence of illegal drugs subsequently found in the search would likely be tossed out.
Thus Phelan, unless he were to be retrained to drop marijuana-detecting from his repertoire — not easily accomplished — has ended up going from cutting edge law enforcement tool to an old school has been.
Drug detecting dogs — traditionally trained to alert to the smell of marijuana, heroin, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and cocaine – can’t specify what they’re smelling, much less the quantity it might be in.
In Washington, the new law decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of the drug for individuals over 21, and barred the growth and distribution of marijuana outside the state-approved system.
Dog trainer Fred Helfers, of the Pacific Northwest Detection Dog Association, said abandoning pot training is a “knee-jerk” reaction: “What about trafficking? What about people who have more than an ounce?” Still, he’s helping departments who want to put their dogs through ”extinction training” to change what substances dogs alert to. That takes about 30 days, followed by a prolonged period of reinforcement.
The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission removed detecting marijuana from its canine team certification standards this year, and no longer requires dogs be trained to detect it, but some others say, given large amounts of pot are still illegal, it can still be a useful skill for a dog to have.
In Pierce County, prosecutor Mark Lindquist believes new dogs are the answer — dogs trained in sniffing out the other drugs, but not marijuana. He’s not convinced dogs can be re-trained. “We’ll need new dogs to alert on substances that are illegal,” he told the Associated Press.
Other police departments, like Tacoma’s, aren’t making any changes.
“The dog doesn’t make the arrest, the officer does,” said spokesperson Loretta Cool. “A canine alert is just one piece of evidence an officer considers when determining whether a crime has been committed.”
Phelan was one of two drug-sniffing dogs on the police force in Lakewood, Colorado. He’ll be replaced by Kira, a Belgian Malinois who was trained not to alert when she smells marijuana. Duke, a Labrador retriever mix with the old-school training, will remain on the force for now.
Phelan, though, will be moving on, and I sympathize with the crime-fighting Lab.
His new gig in the slammer is clearly a step down the career ladder — not unlike going from being a newspaper reporter detecting corruption and injustice to an unpaid blogger who mostly (but not entirely) regurgitates material already written.
And, for Phelan, there’s the added insult of being sold for the lowly sum of one dollar.
Surely — old school as his talents may be – he was worth more than that.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 12th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alert, cocaine, colorado, court, criminal justice, detect, detection, dog, dogs, drug-sniffing, drugs, heroin, job, K-9, k9, lakewood, law, law enforcement, marijuana, marijuana laws, mission, newspapers, police, police dogs, problems, prosecutors, purpose, reporters, searches, skills, sniffing, tacoma, useless, washington, working dogs
Scooby, whose all-knowing nose played a key role in tracking down a cop killer during an interstate manhunt, passed away in his sleep about 9 a.m. Saturday, police said. He’d been suffering from an undisclosed illness, according to the New York Daily News.
The bloodhound was most noted for assisting in the 2007 apprehension of two suspects who had fled the city after gunning down two officers who had pulled them over in Brooklyn for driving a stolen BMW.
Officer Russel Timoshenko, 23, was shot in the face and died a few days later. Officer Herman Yan, his partner and now a detective, was wounded but survived.
The two suspects, Dexter Bostic and Robert Ellis, managed to escape the city and make it as far as the Poconos in eastern Pennsylvania, where they hid out in the woods.
Scooby, joined by six other police dogs and about 300 police officers from several states, launched a manhunt in the woods, based on reports of the two suspects having been seen in a nearby rest area.
Scooby took part in the search that night, and is credited with — when the search resumed the next morning — tracking down Ellis, who was found resting against a tree. Bostic was later apprehended as well.
Bostic was convicted in December 2008 of murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Ellis was convicted only of weapons possession, according to the New York Post, and was sentenced to 15 years.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 2nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bloodhound, dead, death, dexter bostic, died, dog, dogs, herman yan, K-9, k9, killing, manhunt, new york, nypd, pets, police, police dogs, police. officer, robert ellis, russel timoshenko, scent, scooby, shooting
About 150 people gathered for a memorial service at the Thomasville Funeral Home.
Police Chief Jeffrey Insley said before the service that an autopsy determined that Cheko — a drug-detecting dog who also was trained as a tracker — had been poisoned, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. He was one of four dogs in the K-9 unit.
Cheko died in March, just a week before he was scheduled to retire, at the Randolph County home of his handler, Thomasville Police Sgt. John Elgin. Elgin found Cheko dead inside his kennel, about two days after the dog started acting sluggish.
The Randolph County Sheriff’s Department is investigating how the dog ingested the poison. Elgin said additional tests will be conducted to determine what chemicals or poisons killed Cheko.
“It could have been an act of retaliation from a past arrest, but we are not going to point any fingers until we complete our investigation,” he said.
“Any new dog who takes Cheko’s place will have big paws to fill,” Insley said at the service.
Among those paying tribute to Cheko was Thomasville Mayor Joe Bennett told the audience, Cheko had gone to heaven. “I doubt there are drugs there, but he is looking for something and having fun.”
Posted by jwoestendiek April 9th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cheko, dead, detecting, died, dog, dogs, drug, funeral, john elgin, K-9, k9, killed, law enforcement, memorial, north carolina, pets, poison, poisoned, police, randolph county, sniffing, thomasville, tribute
The trial began yesterday for a former Miami-Dade police officer charged with killing a K-9 with a series of kicks.
Duke, a Belgian Malinois, died in 2006 after collapsing during a training exercise with handler Sgt. Allen Cockfield, according to the Miami Herald.
Cockfield is charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty and a felony count of killing a police dog. If convicted, he faces possible prison time and the loss of his state police certification. Cockfield contends any blows he might have administered were in self defense.
“He was simply trying to save himself,” defense attorney Douglas Hartman said.
Authorities arrested Cockfield, 55, in 2007 after a one-year investigation by Miami-Dades Police Department’s internal affairs unit. Cockfield spent more than two decades as a canine handler with the department, which has since fired him.
Miami-Dade prosecutor Isis Perez told jurors yesterday that Duke was not obeying commands during a training exercise, prompting Cockfield to lift the dog up by its leash and kick it three to five times.
“He stiffened his hind legs, shaking as he was going into some sort of seizure, and a few seconds later he became numb, and that was it,” a fellow police officer who witnessed the incident testified.
Cockfield’s attorney disputed that account, saying the dog was behaving aggressively and his client was trying to protect himself.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 28th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: allen cockfield, animal cruelty, animals, belgian malinois, court, dade, dog, dogs, florida, investigation, K-9, k9, killed, law, law enforcement, miami, news, pets, police, police dog, training, trial