JONESBORO, Ark.- K-9s are part of several law enforcement agencies in the Delta. These animals even have a presence in smaller police departments.
Jonesboro Police Sgt. Cassandra Brandon spent five years as a canine handler and says these dogs help them sniff out drugs.
Her K-9’s name was Mick and she quickly found out this assignment was going to be different than being a patrol officer. Unlike patrol officers, canine handlers go home but they are technically still working.
“I had to pay not only attention to what was going on out there, but I had to pay attention to him too and make sure he was okay. That he was comfortable. That he didn’t need to go potty or anything like that. It’s just a lot of extra responsibility as a K-9 handler,” Brandon said.
She also had to train constantly as required by Case Law, which is what the police world operates by. Among the requirements is 16 hours of training a month.
“If there was not a whole lot going on, me and him would go out and we’d just train on our own,” she said. “Mainly that was for him to keep him fresh. Especially for the drugs. I know where they are. I just need to see where they could find him.”
Blake Bristow owns BlueStreak K9, a business where he trains and sells dogs to Delta police departments. He helps set up some of the training required by Case Law.
“Some of these agencies don’t have the time and manpower to be able to train all the time,” Bristow said. “They don’t have the people there that can help them so they come to us.”
One of the handlers struggled during the training, which he says happens when the K-9 and officer are not used to each other yet.
“They’re new. The dog’s good. The handler is figuring things out but we got to get them working together. So that’s what this is for. It’s a team deal,” Bristow said.
He also stressed how crucial the training is and what it means for hard-working citizens if these K-9 handlers don’t do what they are supposed to.
“When they go to court, it’s going to be hard to win that case,” he said. “The more they practice, the better they’re going to deploy in the streets and in a real-lifetime situation. So you know it could save the officer’s life.”
The Jonesboro Police Department understands the importance of these dogs. Most of their K-9s sniff out drugs only, but they also have a bomb sniffing K-9. Brandon says she cannot overstate what the K-9s mean to the officers.
“They can go to a house we don’t want to send an officer into, or a building, or in the woods, or wherever they can go in and try to find a person. If we didn’t have the dogs, we would have to send a person and put that person in harm’s way,” she said.
Bristow said he agrees with Brandon.
Despite knowing they’re a tool for the department, these officers have developed a relationship with their canines.
“Of all the jobs I’ve done, this is one of the most rewarding to be able to see your dog come out and perform when it’s supposed to,” Bristow said.
“We know that’s what they are doing for us. That alone makes having the canine program worth having,” Brandon said.
BlueStreak K9 can be found on Facebook for anyone interested in purchasing a K-9.