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Berkeley Co. K-9s, officers get a place to train

March 04, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Bear's first mission as a K-9 officer was to find the person who had broken into a Martinsburg sub shop. Working with his handler, Cpl. Will Henderson, Bear was able to track down a screwdriver and cash drawer, but the thief got away.

Every three weeks, K-9s like Bear and their handlers must re-train on certain skills. Soon officers with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department will not have to travel far for such training.

Members of the Berkeley County Youth Fair's board have agreed to lease, at no cost, 4 to 5 acres to the county to be used as a training site for K-9s, according to information presented Thursday to the Berkeley County Commission.

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The land is near a set of railroad tracks and will not take up any of the parking spaces that are needed when the fair is held every August, said Lt. Dennis Streets, with the sheriff's department.

The only cost to the county would come from utilities, should the sheriff's department decide to build a small building on the property, Streets said.

A barn already on the property will be repaired and used for training for members of the county's Special Response Team, Streets said.

Commissioners Howard Strauss and Ron Collins voted 2-0 to move forward with obtaining the property from the Youth Fair board. Commissioner Steve Teufel was absent.

After the meeting, Henderson described the types of training that will be conducted.

Dogs are tested on how obedient they are when off their leashes, and how well they respond to verbal and hand signal commands. They also must negotiate an agility course, including climbing a ladder, and perform two different types of criminal apprehension - with and without gunfire.

For a box search, six boxes are placed in an open area. Five are empty but a sixth has a person in it, and the dog must correctly signal which box contains the person, Henderson said.

The dogs also must locate objects scattered in a large space, he said.

Henderson is one of the sheriff's department's two K-9 officers. Deputy Tom Young also has a K-9, named Sultan. Both dogs are German shepherds.

Henderson has been working with Bear since December 2004.

"It's something I always wanted to be," Henderson said. "My dream was always to be a police officer with a dog."

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