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Sheriff wants to re-enlist K9s

August 30, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Officers with the Berkeley County Sheriffs Department are trying to resurrect their K-9 program, and are starting by seeking $50,000 in state money to buy two dogs, a car and other equipment.

When officers need assistance from a K-9 now, they must call either the Martinsburg Police Department or a deputy reserve officer with a bloodhound.

Having their own dog could cut down on response time, and also prevent other dogs from being overworked, said sheriffs department Chief Deputy Kenneth Lemaster.

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The department had a K-9 program, but as officers moved up in rank or lost interest and the dogs aged, it eventually became nonexistent around 15 years ago, Lemaster said.

Recently, a couple of deputies have expressed interest in working with the dogs, including one officer with K-9 experience, Lemaster said.

Being a K-9 officer means more than having a four-legged companion in one's police cruiser, he said.

"It's a commitment," Lemaster said.

K-9 officers must undergo a training program and bond with the dog. After work, officers take their K-9s home, where like any other pet owner, they have to feed and care for the dog.

"The dog will basically become part of his family," Lemaster said.

Sheriff Randy Smith appeared before the Berkeley County Commission Thursday morning, saying state Sen. John Unger II, D-Berkeley, is trying to secure budget digest money totaling $50,000 for the program.

Thirty thousand dollars would pay for two K-9s, equipment for one year and training for the officer. Another $20,000 would pay for a K-9 cruiser, most likely a four-wheel drive the officer could use to get to hard-to-reach places.

Lemaster said he hopes to obtain one dog trained to detect drugs, and a second trained to detect explosives. Trained K-9s cost thousands of dollars each, Lemaster said.

Deputies need assistance from K-9s somewhat frequently, Lemaster said, with the most recent incident being about a month ago. The Martinsburg Police Department's K-9 was called to help search for three men who fled from police near Capitol Cement off Kelly Island Road. Although a helicopter was also brought in to search, heavy underbrush, heat and impending nightfall prevented the dogs from finding the men, who remain at large.

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