A new K-9 officer has reported for duty at the McLean County Sheriff’s Office.
Katy, a German shepherd, started full duty at the end of September. Handled by Deputy Brad McDaniel, Katy joins fellow K-9 Kilo on the force.
Sheriff Ken Frizzell said the office had been in discussions of getting a second canine.
“The reason being, the way drugs and things are coming into the county now, we don’t see a lot of meth labs anymore, where people cook their own. We’ve only run into a couple of those over the last two or three years,” he said. “However, the drugs are getting transported in vehicles and things of that nature. …The best way to combat that is to have canines out, ready to be deployed to do an exterior sniff of that vehicle when we have traffic stops on vehicles. So we wanted to be able to get another canine to better enforce that because that is the best way now to fight the drug problem that we have in our area.”
According to Frizzell, the MCSO looked into and were working on some grant projects when McDaniel, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, made a call to an organization in Texas that told him he could use his G.I. Bill money for the dog and training.
“He approached me with that idea and I wasn’t extremely receptive at first,” Frizzell said. “I didn’t want him to use his own G.I. Bill (money); I wanted to seek out a grant to find it. However, he kept talking to me about it and told me this is what he really wanted to do, he had no plans to go back to school again, and that this is what he really wanted to use it for. And after some thought and communication with him back and forth, I decided that we would do that.”
McDaniel said Universal K9 out of San Antonio, Texas, works with veterans to use G.I. Bill monies for such matters.
“I’ve been in some sort of law enforcement for 15 years and canine was something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.
Since leaving the U.S. Marines in 2004, McDaniel said he hasn’t had any interest in returning to school or using those funds in another manner, so “this was just the perfect opportunity to be able to use it.”
According to Frizzell, McDaniel owns Katy, who is on loan to the county. The sheriff’s office provides for its care, insurance coverage, food and “everything that he needs to do the job, like what we do with our other canine.”
“There’s a lot of gratitude toward Brad for being willing to do that and we’re extremely appreciative of it,” Frizzell said. “… Everybody knows there’s a drug problem in our area. It is one of the things that I said we would continue to fight through education and enforcement and different things. And we’ve been very proactive in doing that. Since taking office, our drug charges have increased 41 percent.”
The dogs, he said, play a “very, very, vital role” in the narcotics dealings the department sees.
“A lot of the arrests that we have are due to K-9 usage,” he said.
A former K-9 handler himself, Frizzell said he knows the ins and outs and is “very pro on the canine programs.” The department also has an experienced handler in Deputy Anthony Howard, who handles Kilo.
“And Brad, being a new handler, he’s been able to pull from several of us who have handled a dog, to learn. So he’s come a long way in a short period of time because of time” because of his colleagues’ experiences, Frizzell said.
McDaniel traveled to San Antonio for training in early August and Katy started full duty at the end of September after going through additional, independent certification.
Being a K-9 handler is something McDaniel said he has always wanted to do.
“I grew up around dogs at home and I’ve always been a dog-type person,” he said. McDaniel has a personal German shepherd at home, too.
According to Frizzell, K-9s continue to train 20 hours a month and are recertified every year.
The Sheriff’s Office has already seen results from having a second K-9 on patrol, he said.
“We haven’t had her here yet a full year to fully see the change in that, but we’re looking forward to that, and as the years go on and the handler and the dog progress, we’ll see even greater impacts,” said Frizzell.
In addition to drug detection (Katy is trained to detect the odor of marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, as well as other drugs with those components), Frizzell said canines can also assist in apprehension, tracking and, if necessary, search and rescue efforts.
“Again, K-9 plays a major role in how we combat the drug problem here in this county,” he said. “Without K-9, it would be greatly hindered. They enable us to search vehicles that otherwise we could not search. Certainly we don’t have the noses to smell what they can smell … in a search and rescue situation or a fleeing suspect, we don’t have the tracking capabilities that dog’s nose has. Sometimes in situations, they can be used and sent into apprehend somebody where it may not be as safe to send an officer directly in. That’s only in a dire situation, because we want to protect our dogs, too. They’re a deputy. They’re one of us.”