K-9 officers: Four-legged partners essential to law enforcement

Carson City Sheriff's K-9 "Chico"
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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) An alarm has been triggered in a large building. An intruder, perhaps armed, may be lurking, hidden somewhere. Finding and apprehending them is a difficult, dangerous task for a lone patrolman. It's a quick and efficient assignment for his four-legged partner.

"With their sense of smell, they can clear buildings faster than five deputies put together," says Carson City Deputy Sheriff Brett Bindley, for two years working with his canine partner, a German Shepherd named Ivo.

Ivo checks room by room finding and holding the hidden man in almost less time than it takes to tell the story.

What we're watching is a training exercise, but the real thing happens more often than you might think.

"I deploy my dog on average 30 to 35 times a month," says Bindley, who is assigned to patrol and also attached to the SWAT unit.

"Now that includes drug searches as well, but I use my dog for probably ten building searches a month. That's ten building searches that officers don't have to expose themselves to gunfire or violence."

Clearing buildings, sniffing out drugs, finding lost people. They bring unique talents to a number of tasks.

"Dogs have an amazing ability to create a cure for just about everything," says Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong. "Whether it be help or bringing order to a disorderly event. They are just amazing assets to a law enforcement organization."

And that includes one task you might not think of.

"You don't see communities sending their drug detectives out to be petted by a bunch of kids," says Bindley, "but my dog goes out in the community and he makes a bond with kids, with adults, with old people in seconds and its the same bond that would take our department years to make."

So, you'd expect most agencies to have them and in our area you'd be right with one exception.

"Almost all the agencies in northern Nevada currently have a K-9 program at its disposal and its time for Lyon County stepped into that realm with that resource," says Lyon Sheriff Al McNeil.

He needs only to point to an incident in Silver Springs in February. A lone deputy responding to a reported robbery came under fire.

"That deputy was by himself," says McNeil. "His nearest backup was coming from Fernley or Yerington or Dayton."

In a county with widely scattered population centers and a small staff, it's a danger deputies face every day.

"It's important to have additional senses that are out there to alert a deputy sheriff to any hidden dangers."

McNeil also sees savings and added efficiency in drug searches.

Factoring in the cost of a special vehicle, food, the dog itself, it's not an inexpensive undertaking, but both sheriffs say in the long run dogs also save man hours.

McNeil has gotten the funding for the officer. Now he needs the rest.
A non-profit will be raising the difference beginning with a car show in Yerington in late June 2016.

Furlong has gone that route before, but says now the K-9's have proven their worth and should be funded like any other part of the department in its budget through the city's general fund.