Sierra Jenkins / @ 10:32 a.m. / LoCO Video Reports

(VIDEO) DOG COPS! From Patrol to Drug Detection, Meet the Dogs Enhancing the Strength of Local Law Enforcement


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Humboldt County has around 200 law enforcement officers but only five of them have K-9’s. So in honor of National Police Week, this LoCO Video Report recognizes Humboldt’s K-9’s and their handlers. Because although they may be small in number, they’re a huge asset.

K-9’s protect and serve just like their human officer counterparts. They face danger and injury everyday and their mere presence enhances the strength of law enforcement.

We start with Vex — he’s currently the oldest Humboldt K-9 and the most intense. He’s a nine-year-old Belgian Malinois that patrols the streets of Eureka on night shifts with his handler Sergeant Leonard LaFrance. Vex has served since 2010 and despite being kicked, punched, choked and bloodied up by criminals, he’s still going strong!

“Vex has been deployed over 600 times and he has over 120 arrests,” said LaFrance. “And only nine of those have been street bites. So he has a 93 plus percent surrender ratio, and that’s our ultimate goal, is surrender.”

Patrol dogs primary task is locating and/or apprehending criminal offenders. Whether that be through tracking and trailing, area or building searches, high risks stops or to protect their handler, they know their job and get it done.

But LaFrance says most criminals give up after just hearing Vex’s piercing bark. We get to experience that first hand during an emergency call on our ride-along. And although Vex is fierce while at work, LaFrance says at home, the dog is usually hanging out with toddlers.

Then after a night of fighting crime, we move on to the day shift in Arcata to meet Baron and his handler officer, Matthew O’Donovan.

Baron’s a two-year-old German Shepherd from the Czech Republic. He recently had an apprehension, has had multiple subjects surrender, and even located a man wanted for attempted murder hiding underneath a house, and he’s only been on the force since June of last year.

O’Donovan says Baron is very intelligent and “He picks up on things real quick. All I have to do is grab the radio and he’s whining and ready to go.”

Baron regularly trains alongside Fortuna’s four-year-old K-9 Nordy, who is also a German Shepherd from the Czech Republic.

Nordy started at F.P.D. in the spring of 2014, but went back to patrol school last year with his new handler, officer Justin Primofiore.

“It was an adjustment at first because he’s always barking, and very attentive, said Primofriore. “I had to adjust the way I do things based on his actions. So balancing keeping him prepared and alert and calm at the same time can be a difficult task sometimes because he’s very high strung and motivated.”

Since Primofiore has had Nordy, he’s helped assist almost every agency in the county, had several non-bite apprehensions and one bite apprehension.

Then we meet the Sheriff’s Office sniffer extraordinaire’s Benny and Louie, who both came from the prestigious Witmer-Tyson import company that specializes in breeding and training.

Benny is a British lab going into his third year of service. He primarily works out of the McKinleyville office with his handler Deputy Dennis Gagnon, but Benny’s worked all over Humboldt with more than 30 arrests. Benny’s drug finds have led law enforcement to also discover firearms, out of state assault weapons, and a drug parcel that was ultimately linked to violent criminals who were committing drive by shootings in South Carolina. And all that, because work is play for Benny.

“Benny has a really high play drive. The act of seeking scents for dogs who do work in narcotics, explosives, or arson, the dog is in a play mode, he’s looking for the scent and as his reward for finding that, he gets his toy,” said Gagnon. “But the only way he can get that toy is to locate the scent.”

And that’s the same for Louie. He’s the Humboldt County Correctional Facility’s drug detection dog. This is his second year at the jail, however he also gets called on search warrants throughout the county. His handler Correctional Deputy II Colby Henson says Louie loves to eat and dig before work and that he’s little shy.

“He’s not a very personable dog. He’s the nicest dog in the world but it takes him a while to warm up to people. He loves to work, he gets real excited when it’s time to do his job,” he says.

A bonus: We then get to watch Benny and Louie both show off their drug sniffing skills!

All the dogs initially take a four week 160-hour training course in their specialty, then they continuously train a few times a month year-round. The command languages vary from dog to dog but range from English, German, Czech and French. Some of the dogs are even good at public relations.

So why not have more? Well the cost of each dog plus the initial training is more than $10,000 right out the door, and then continued care and training, and of course dog gear such as bulletproof-stabproof vests, and the price keeps going up. However theses K-9’s are a great return on investment.

So to Vex, Baron, Nordy, Benny and Louie, and the officers that spend 24-7 taking care of you. We salute you!

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