Downey police adds canine to force

DOWNEY - The Downey Police Department has made a four-legged addition to its rank of officers.Duke, a 2-year-old chocolate labrador, has joined the department as a full-time narcotics dog. The canine is specially trained in detecting four types of drugs - methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and heroin. Dogs such as Duke are used for sniffing out drugs hidden inside vehicles and on search warrants, police officials said. They are especially adept at locating hidden compartments used to store drugs in cars, said Officer Chris Kurtz, Duke's handler. The addition of Duke eliminates the Downey Police Department's reliance on outside agencies for assistance in drug searches, said Capt. Carl Charles. The dog was purchased from a breeder in Texas for $15,000 and paid for from the department's Asset Forfeiture fund. "We're very thankful the city saw fit to provide us with this invaluable tool," Charles said. Duke completed 120 hours of training in September and has been working since October. He is already responsible for the recovery of three pounds of meth and 100 grams of cocaine, Kurtz said. "And the more training he gets, the better he'll become," Kurtz said. Duke uses his advanced sense of smell to find narcotics that a human officer might miss. When he identifies a hit, Duke will scratch at the surface to notify Kurtz. "It's a big game for him," said Kurtz. "He becomes really excited when we're going out on a call." Duke is at Kurtz's side at all times, and goes home with him every night. A police cruiser has been retrofitted for Duke to safely travel in the back seat. He can also travel in a portable dog crate. Duke has been in high demand in his short time on the job. In about 10 weeks of service, he has already participated in more than 400 searches and has assisted three law enforcement agencies, including the DEA. Still a friendly puppy, Duke is used solely for searches of vehicles and homes, and cannot be used to identify contraband on humans. And with good reason. "He would lick the person to death," Kurtz said.

********** Published: December 9, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 34