Public gets chance to see officers, K-9s at work

Published 6:00 am Thursday, December 4, 2003

Law officers from across Southwest Mississippi are getting somedoggone good training this week, and they want to invite the publicto watch them work during a K-9 Trial Friday.

Twelve K-9 handlers and their “partners” are visiting Brookhaventhis week while attending a training seminar that includes twoinstructors from Holland.

“They buy their dogs from Holland. and we help them learn howbest to use them,” said Frank Klok, an obedience and criminalapprehension instructor from the Work Dog Center. The center trainsand sells K-9s to law enforcement agencies worldwide.

“A lot of officers have K-9s, but a lot of them don’t know whatthey can or cannot do with their dogs,” Klok said. “We’re hoping toexpand their horizons.”

Klok and Han van Wittmarschen, a K-9 trainer with the RoyalDutch Police, said this is their fifth trip to the United Statesand each trip involved teaching a K-9 seminar. Wittmarschen is alsoan obedience and criminal apprehension instructor.

“We really enjoy it here,” he said. “The officers are friendly,and they take good care of us. They are eager to learn. Everyone isdoing their best to make a good showing, and everyone gets betterfor it.”

The Dutchmen are also training handlers and their dogs inpatrol, tracking, and search techniques.

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Dustin Bairfield saidhaving the Dutchmen as instructors has many benefits.

“The reason we like them to come here is they can tell us howthe dog was trained in the beginning,” he said. “The Dutch have thebest dogs and that’s because they begin training as puppies.”

“The dog’s demeanor changes just a bit when they hear that Dutchlanguage,” Bairfield added with a smile.

The seminar also provided a bit of a reunion for Klok. He wasreunited with Marco, a dog he trained in Holland that was sold toRaymond Gatlin, a K-9 officer attending the seminar.

In addition to the training by Klok and van Wittmarschen, RandyHare of Alpha K-9s in Jackson is teaching the teams the latest innarcotics techniques.

Participation in the seminar is smaller this year than in yearspast when as many as 30 teams attended, Bairfield said, but smallerparticipation also means more one-on-one time with theinstructors.

Gene Dufrene, a K-9 handler for four years with the GulfportPolice Department, agreed. “This has been one of the best seminarsI’ve been to,” he said. “The classes are smaller, but I like thatbecause you get more one-on-one time with the instructor, and thetraining has been very good. Things like this can only make youbetter.”

Bairfield said the seminar is part of an annual recertificationall K-9 handlers are required to have.

“They’ll be graded on how well the dog and handler do,”Bairfield said. “They’re graded as a team.”

Clinton Earls, a K-9 handler with the Brookhaven PoliceDepartment, said the seminars also give handlers a chance toassociate with each other and develop bonds of friendship they canuse when they need assistance, such as searching a school.

“Searching a school is a big job for a dog. They need to resttoo,” he said. “By meeting other handlers in the area, we can getto know them and call on each other when we need help with a job. Ilike to have two or even three dogs available for a schoolsearch.”

The seminars also give them a chance to trade professioninformation such as alternative training techniques oradministrative plans, Earls said.

The public is invited to watch as the teams are judged forcertification during the criminal apprehension phase of thetraining Friday at 1 p.m. at the Brookhaven Sports Complex. In theevent of rain, the event will be moved into the Lincoln CountyMulti-Purpose Building.