Pubdate: Fri, 07 Aug 2009
Source: Winkler Times (CN MB)
Copyright: 2009 Winkler Times
Author: Ashleigh Viveiros
Bookmark: (Drug Dogs)


Police Pooch Expected To Start Sniffing Out Drugs This Fall

The Winkler Police Service is adding a new tool to its arsenal in the 
battle against drugs in our community.

City council recently gave the department approval to establish a 
canine unit in Winkler.

Chief Rick Hiebert says a police dog is an invaluable tool for a 
police service to have.

"It adds another level of professionalism to a police service," he 
said. "It's another service that we can provide to our citizens in 
helping to fight the war on drugs."

Police dogs are trained for a number of different purposes, Hiebert 
said. Some are trained to be trackers, others are taught to chase and 
take down criminals, and some are trained to detect drugs and other 
illicit goods.

Winkler's police dog will be trained mainly to do the latter, Hiebert said.

"This dog will be trained specifically to detect drugs," he said. "It 
could also be used to sniff out other items, as well, and possibly 
for some light tracking, like, say, a lost child."

Winkler officers recently visited the community of Estevan, 
Saskatchewan - a city of similar size to Winkler - to find out more 
about their canine unit.

Hiebert said the Estevan police department spends a couple of 
thousand dollars a year on the unit, and the expense has more than paid off.

For one, the Estevan dog was effectively used in a $93,000 drug bust, he said.

"Like any community, we have our own issues with drugs, so if we can 
do something to help counter it ... it's worth it," he said.

Canine units are also great for community relations, especially when 
officers visit local schools to talk to kids about the dangers of 
drug use, Hiebert said.

"When you go into the schools with a police dog, the kids pay 
attention," he said. "So it can be a very positive tool when talking 
to kids about drugs."

"For me, that alone is worth it - if we can more effectively get the 
message across to kids," Hiebert said.

Having a drug dog on staff will also allow officers to help any 
schools or businesses who might want to sweep their facilities for 
illicit materials, Hiebert said.


With the green light from council, the next step in the formation of 
Winkler's first canine unit is finding a pooch up to doing the job.

Hiebert says he has someone who trains police dogs on the lookout for 
a potential dog for Winkler, likely a Labrador of some kind.

"He is out now looking for a dog for us," he said, noting it will 
take several weeks for a dog to be found and properly trained.

Many police dogs come from animal shelters, and are then trained to a 
police department's specific needs, Hiebert noted, adding that the 
human half of the canine unit - Cst. Arnie Klassen - will also 
undergo training when the dog is found.

"This is not going to take away from our general patrol," Hiebert 
said, noting that Klassen will still maintain his regular workload 
along with his duties with the canine unit.

Nor will the department have to purchase a special vehicle to 
accommodate a kennel - the recently purchased police SUV has plenty 
of room for one, Hiebert said.

The goal is for the canine unit to be up and running sometime this fall.
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