Oskar joins county fight against crime

Published 8:00 pm Friday, February 22, 2013

The newest member of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department brings a keen nose to the fight against crime.

Oskar, an 18-month-old Belgian Malinois, joined the LCSD in January as its primary K-9, a valuable tool in the department’s arsenal.

“He’s young and he’s ready to go,” said Oskar’s handler, Lt. Matt Springfield.

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Oskar is trained in narcotics detection as well as criminal apprehension and limited tracking.

According to Springfield, Oskar tracking ability relies on “crushed vegetation,” which is more limited than the nose of a bloodhound, which can use human scent to track.

“He doesn’t track across a hard surface, ” Springfield said.

The officer emphasized the partnership and teamwork required for a successful K-9 unit to function.

“People have high expectations of what a K-9 can do,” he said. ” He’s limited like any other dog. He’s not driving the car around. He’s not making the traffic stop.”

Oskar’s appointment came after the loss of the department’s previous dog, Leaka, in 2012. The 11-year-old veteran K-9 was struck by a vehicle while exercising with Springfield.

“I miss my dog. I loved her,” he said. “But she left on a good note. She helped pave the way for Oskar.”

Earlier that year, Leaka assisted Springfield in the apprehension of two suspects allegedly involved in drug trafficking. During a routine traffic stop, Leaka discovered a “false compartment” in the vehicle containing $65,000.

According to Sheriff Steve Rushing, the K-9 unit basically pays for itself. Cash confiscated through drug seizures are allocated back to the department by the county for such use.

“It’s the only way we can afford it nowadays.” Rushing said.

Oskar was purchased for $13,900 from U.S. K9 Unlimited, a dog training academy and provider located in Kaplan, La. Another $500 was spent training Lt. Springfield with Oskar at the academy.

“[Oskar] was the one I wanted,” Springfield said, “I hand-picked him.”

Oskar and Springfield share their duties with Caesar and handler Keith Dickerson, the primary K-9 unit used by the Southwest Mississippi Narcotics Enforcement Unit encompassing a multi-county jurisdiction including Lincoln.

At the end of the shift, Oskar accompanies Springfield home where he’s housed, fed and continues rigorous training in obedience, agility and tracking.

“He’s a great dog, but it takes a lot of work to keep him trained,” he said.

According to Springfield, the two deputies are rarely apart, ensuring a bond that is essential in the operation of the unit.

“He’s fun, he’s my partner,” he said ” I carry him around with me everyday.”