K-9’s shine at Mantracker 2021 | #elderly | #seniors | #execrise
A police officer kneels beside his dog, watching a suspect in the passenger side of a dilapidated-looking automobile. He calls for the suspect to surrender.
“No,” the suspect responds. “I’m not going back to jail again!”
The officer gives the suspect another chance to reconsider. A chance to give himself up before the dog makes him give up. But the suspect is stubborn. It’s a tense situation, to say the least.
“I’m not going back to jail again!” the suspect replies.
With this, the officer moves over to the dog, says a few things to him, and the dog goes on his way. He knows what to do. He rushes over to the car and sets his sights on the suspect. He lunges at him, and the suspect jumps out of the car. The jig is up; the suspect has no choice but to surrender to police custody.
On a Wednesday morning west of Newnan, this simulation played itself out as part of training for patrol dogs at the 13 Stories haunted house. The suspect was working with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, the dog was muzzled, and the dilapidated-looking car was a prop usually used at the haunted house. The exercise was part of Mantracker 2021, a week full of police training exercises organized by the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office and attended by agencies from across the region.
K-9 units from places such as Peachtree City, South Fulton, Lagrange and Fayetteville, as well as Montgomery and Opelika in Alabama, were on hand for the training.
Cpl. Mark Storey with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office explained the importance of the K-9 units with the police force.
“Any time we’re trying to locate somebody that we already don’t have in custody, there’s a possibility we’ll want to use their nose,” Storey said. “Most (scientists) say the dogs’ olfactory system is hundreds of thousands times stronger than ours.”
Storey said the department benefits any time they can use the unique skill of a dog and its ability to detect scent or track, and not just to catch a suspect.
Patrol dogs do more than just apprehend suspects
While many view police dogs as those that help apprehend a suspect or sniff out drugs from a person or their vehicle, Storey explained that police dogs do more than that.
“Any time we can use a dog’s nose to benefit us, benefit the community, we’re going to do that,” he said.
For instance, a police department could utilize a police dog to recover a child, or someone with dementia. Storey said one of his proudest moments with police dogs involved successfully recovering an elderly woman who had dementia. The elderly woman had wandered off from her home.
“In a lot of ways, that is just as important, if not more important, than locating a bad guy,” Storey said. “If you can save somebody, like a kid, who wanders off from the house, he doesn’t know any better, he stumbles into a lake or something, and now you’ve gone from a lost kid to someone who can’t swim, you’ve got a totally different situation.”
Storey said the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office uses their police dogs as much for recovery and to help people as much as they do to apprehend suspects.
Training a matter of focusing dogs
The training at 13 Stories on Wednesday was a matter of focusing the dogs on their target, ignoring any potential distractions along the way.
Part of the training occurred in a dark maze at the haunted house, as the dogs searched for their target. When the dog found its target, the target – someone in a cage in a bite suit – could be heard screaming while a light shined for the dog to see, indicating to the dog that his training had been successful.
“We’re just trying to enhance the dogs and give them different scenarios,” Storey said. “Here, we use this for distractions. What we want the dog to do is work to overcome things that may be different to them, things that may be unusual, things that may be a little crazy, strange noises, dark situations, so we’re using that as an extra added benefit.”
Storey said the more in training the dog can overcome, a situation he engages in during the work of his police work will seem routine.
“They’re really good at it,” Storey said. “We’ve got a good group of people here, a good group of dogs, and they’ve kept their maintenance training up. They’re very dedicated.”
Storey said a dog handler, in his opinion, has to be dedicated.
“He or she’s got an extra living, breathing thing they’re responsible for,” he said. “These guys have maintained their dogs really well.”
One of the exercises involved what was known as a “bark indication drill.”
“They put an acting suspect in a place where the dog can not get to them,” Storey said. “We want the dog to let us stay behind cover. We love them, but we use them to protect us, so they venture out first. The drill was, the dog goes out and hunts for the suspect. He finds the suspect but he can’t get to him. Then, we want the dog to bark and let us know. We can stay here in cover, and the team can stay here and say, ‘I hear him, he has located the suspect, and he sounds like he’s in the back right corner.’
“If you’ve got good control of the dog, you can tell him to be quiet,” Storey continued. “So you can go from the dog telling you, ‘I found him,’ to quiet, and you can communicate with the suspect: ‘I know my dog has found you. This is the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. Speak to me.’ And then, you have a situation of possibly bringing the suspect to you, and it would be way safer for him and for us. Of course, if he won’t speak to you, you have the option of telling the dog to bark again, so you can follow that noise, and you can do it tactfully.”
The use of the dog, Storey said, allows law enforcement agencies to apprehend a suspect as safely as possible for both the suspect and for authorities.
Photos by Clay Neely
Cpl. Mark Storey with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office gives the audience an overview of the K9 program during the Mantracker finale, held at the Coweta County Rec Department.
K9 Yeager has a lock on his target. Officer Adam Pendleton of the Peachtree City Police Department is the lucky victim in this scenario.K9 Yeager takes to the air to apprehend Officer Adam Pendleton during a scenario.
Cpl. Jay Hughes with the Peachtree City Police Department prepares to release K9 Ejmyr after a suspect declines to surrender to police during a training scenario.K9 Yeager prepares to leap from the helicopter and intercept a running fugitive during the Mantracker finale on Thursday evening.Will Rogers gets a kiss from his bloodhound, Blaze.Will Rogers, K9 handler for the Georgia Department of Corrections, takes a rest with his bloodhound, Blaze, after a successful manhunt exercise on the Blackburn property during Mantracker this week.