Public can watch training of officers, canine helpers

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Friendly competition and required training are the themes thisweek as Lincoln County hosts a statewide certification program forlaw enforcement canine units.

Twenty-three dog and handler teams, mostly from the southernpart of the state, are participating in the regional certificationfor the U.S. Police Canine Association at the sports complex, saidLincoln County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Officer Chris Picou,who is helping to organize the event. The program began Monday andwill conclude Friday.

Citizens will get an opportunity to see dog and handler activityfirst hand Thursday at 6 p.m. during a public demonstration atBrookhaven High School’s King Field. Picou said the program willinclude demonstrations of traffic stops, maneuvering around variousobstacles and other law enforcement situations that dogs andhandlers may find themselves in.

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“They (the association) want you to do a demonstration to getthe public more involved,” Picou said.

Certification is the important part of the week’s activity.Picou said every dog has to be certified by an organization such asthe USPCA.

“That certification carries a lot of weight in court,” hesaid.

The week’s events began Monday with vehicle and indoor narcoticssearches. Thursday’s and Friday’s activities, beginning at 8 the sports complex, will focus on the patrol aspect of policedog work.

“It’s open to the public,” Picou said.

The patrol work concentrates on dog obedience, agility, suspectand article searches and criminal apprehension.

“The dog is graded on how well he bites, how well he fights andhow clean his out (when he releases a suspect) is,” Picou said.”You have to show your dog has the utmost control.”

Another aspect is the dog’s reaction to gun fire in that he isnot afraid and how he responds if his handler is attacked.

“You have to show you’re in control of the dog at all times,”Picou said.

Top finishers in the various certification categories will go onto participate in a national program. Picou said the top five inpatrol work and the top four in narcotics work will go forward.

Picou is not competing this year after his former drug dog Ricodied in a family house fire in January. He said his new dog, Carlo,is not yet fully trained.

“He’s not ready. I just got him in,” said Picou, who has had thedog about three weeks.

Brookhaven Police Canine Officer Clint Earls and his dog Felixare in the competition. Earls said he was looking forward to thepatrol part of the program.

“It’s looking good so far,” Earls said.

Wayne Roberts, Copiah-Lincoln Community College Police Chief,and his dog Lady are among participants. He said Co-Lin is probablyone of the few community colleges to have a canine unit.

“It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve learned a lot,” Robertssaid.

Many of the dogs used by police in the United States come fromHolland. Frank Klok, who specializes in dog training in thatcountry, has been observing this week’s activities.

“The dogs I have seen have been very good, strong dogs and veryobedient,” Klok said. “I have a good impression.”

Picou said he appreciated Klok’s input and observations duringthe program. He said Klok can give insight into how to react if adog does something unexpected.

“The dogs know more than we’ll ever use,” said Picou, citing theextensive training that the dogs go through.

Klok agreed.

“I can help if they have questions,” he said.

By attending certifications and interacting with officers, Picousaid Klok gets more familiar with the officers and their specificlaw enforcement needs.

“He doesn’t send us a dog that’s too much for us and is toolittle,” Picou said. “He sends us what we need.”

This is the first year Lincoln County has hosted a certificationprogram for the USPCA, but has hosted similar programs on two otheroccasions. Picou mentioned the cooperation the canine program hasreceived from the Brookhaven Police Department and the sheriff’sdepartment.

“Both Chief Henderson and Sheriff Boyte believe in this and havebeen supportive of the whole thing,” Picou said.

Mississippi is one of 26 regions in the USPCA. The state is aregion unto itself, Picou said.

While only in existence as a region for two years, Picou saidMississippi is developing a good reputation for dog and handlerteams. He mentioned fellow Lincoln County Narcotics Officer DustinBairfield and his dog Ricky winning top national narcotics honorslast year, Bairfield’s and Picou’s being named the top departmentteam, and other awards won by dog and handler teams in thestate.

“People are starting to take notice of our program,” Picou said.”We’ve got some outstanding dogs in this state.”