Twiggs County’s new drug dogs not performing like rookies

lfabian@macon.comJuly 16, 2014 

Twiggs County Sheriff Darren Mitchum, right, welcomes new members of the K-9 unit, Cpl. Jeremy Johnson and Loki, left, and Sgt. Jason Smith and Bayra, in this undated photo.

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In just two months, a couple of rookies on the Twiggs County Sheriff’s Office have caught several suspected drug traffickers.

Bayra, a Dutch shepherd, and Loki, a Labrador retriever, are expected to far exceed earning their keep as trained narcotic detection canines.

“They have been working on the interstate and have made several felony cases involving felony methamphetamine and felony marijuana,” said Maj. James McDaniel of the Twiggs County Sheriff’s Office.

The dogs replaced two others who retired into the care of their handlers early this year after serving 10 years, according to a news release from the Twiggs County Sheriff’s Office.

The $10,000 fee for each dog and training is covered by confiscated drug funds.

Sheriff Darren Mitchum launched the K-9 unit in 2005 and credits it with taking millions of dollars of narcotics off the streets and allowing the county to seize drug money, weapons, vehicles and property.

The department enhances its budget with the seized money and profit from items sold.

Without those funds, deputies would go without advanced technology or rely on the taxpayers to fund equipment purchases, Mitchum stated in the release.

“They’re a big benefit,” McDaniel said. “They’re able to get us into places we wouldn’t be able to if we didn’t have them.”

Both dogs and their handlers, Sgt. Jason Smith and Cpl. Jeremy Johnson, were trained at the Alabama Canine Law Enforcement Officer Training Center.

The deputies studied handler techniques, narcotic detection, search and seizure procedures, case law, obedience training, officer safety and current crime trends during their one-month course.

Both passed written exams and field trials based on national standards for narcotics canines.

Mitchum applauded the dedication of all the handlers who have worked with the department and stated that he was proud of their accomplishments over the years.

Smith is also caring for Wyra, a drug dog retired this year along with Creo, whose handler is now a Cochran police officer.

“Creo was like a 110-pound shepherd and he lived in the house with them and would sleep at the foot of their bed,” McDaniel said. “It’s a tool when you’re at work, but when you’re at home, it’s a pet.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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