Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 23, 2014

Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office adds K-9 unit

TAZEWELL — Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office adds one new furry, four-legged member to the team.

Tazewell Sheriff’s Department Deputy M.B. Steele and new K-9 unit Bruno went through their official training Friday.

“These canines just enhance what we do in the community, just like everyday tools they help us find drugs and it’s just a bonus that they are trained to do searches,” Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt said.

The sheriff’s department now has two dogs that are trained in narcotics and search and rescue.

Before Bruno, the department only had one K-9 officer, Evo, a Belgian Malinois, who has helped make multiple drug arrest and also assisted in the arrest of an escaped inmate, Hieatt said.

Bruno, a Czech Shepherd-Malinois mix, went through extensive training before the sheriff’s department received him.

“The dog must go through a training program, plus a yearly 40 hour in-service training and also a once a month training,” Hieatt said.

Southwest Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy Training Coordinator Tim Tester was on scene to evaluate the K-9’s performance.

Bruno performed a couple different tests including off-lead obedience, attack or bite work and a narcotics search, which included indoor and outdoor drug searches.

“These dogs are trained on marijuana, cocaine, meth and heroine,” Major Harold Heatley said.

Lt. Chuck McNerlin suited up in a heavily padded suit, where the dogs demonstrated their abilities to attack.

Even with the extremely windy conditions both dogs were still able to perform drug searches on the exterior of vehicles.

K-9 unit Evo and handler Corp. J.M. Caldwell also ran through the training course.

Evo has been with the sheriff’s department for a little over a year.

“Ever since the first day, I have fed, bathed and cared for Evo. He really is part of the family. I spend more time with him than my own family. I talk to him just like a person. He sticks his head through the sliding glass window, rests his head on my shoulder and we ride around. It’s nice to know I always have back up. I always take at least 30 minutes a day to do something with him, such as play ball, because at the end of the day he is still a dog,” Caldwell said.

Evo is also trained with hand signals which are used in situations where you might not be able to talk, such as with the SWAT team, Caldwell explained.

After about five or six years, depending on the dog, the sheriff’s office will retire the K-9 and most of the time, the dog goes to live with their handler.

— Contact Anne Elgin at aelgin@bdtonline.com

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