Puppy police officer: Craig’s newest canine crimefighter will hit streets next year
The Craig Police Department is training a new member of the force — one slightly more hairy and with more teeth than your average police officer.
Yesko Bane aka “Bane” is CPD’s new K9, an 8-week-old German shepherd, who will begin his training with Cpl. Grant Laehr under the direction of Moffat County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sgt. Courtland Folks for deployment on the streets of Craig sometime in the first half of 2020.
“We work hand in hand together,” Folks said of MCSO’s K9 partnership with CPD. “We’re all here together as a team.”
Folks has been influential in the county’s and city’s drug interdiction efforts in recent years, having trained and retired several drug detection dogs for CPD and MCSO — like Kilo, Fury, and Thunder. He said Bane’s curriculum will consist of months of training with controlled substance-scented toys and positive reinforcement that will end with Bane being able to easily detect most street drugs — cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and ecstasy.
“The concept is fairly simple — you find the odor, you get rewarded,” Folks said of Bane’s coming training.
But distractions are also important for Bane to overcome — non-suspect civilians, a world full of smells from an endless number of sources, some of them other animals.
“It’s all about socialization,” Folks said.
That reason is partly why Bane will be living with Laehr and his family.
“It’s a lifestyle change,” Laehr said. “This animal is coming home with us, so when we’re off duty, we’re in charge of exercising the dog and everything else.”
Laehr said his family knows Bane is a working dog, but they’re nonetheless happy to house Craig’s new K9.
“They’re excited,” Laehr said of his family getting their own live-in police dog.
Bane will be special in another key way — he’ll be Craig’s first police dog to not be trained to alert to marijuana. Leaving marijuana out of Bane’s training was likely a result of a Craig case that was appealed all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court involving Folk’s recently retired dog, Kilo. In May, the court came down with a decision that police must have more probable cause to search a vehicle if they’re using a dog trained to alert to marijuana.
“We hold that a sniff from a drug-detection dog that is trained to alert to marijuana constitutes a search … of the Colorado Constitution because that sniff can detect lawful activity, namely the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older,” the court’s ruling said. “We further hold that, in Colorado, law enforcement officers must have probable cause to believe that an item or area contains a drug in violation of state law before deploying a drug-detection dog that alerts to marijuana for an exploratory sniff.”
With the Supreme Court decision behind them, Folks said he and other K9 handlers in the area still have a job to do — detaining combatant suspects, drug interdiction at traffic stops, maybe the occasional building search using their highly trained K9s.
“The strategies for the most part are the same,” Folks said.
What’s clear is MCSO and CPD’s K9s have more than enough energy to do the job. All three dogs couldn’t wait to mix things up Monday as their handlers shouted commands and the dogs obeyed.
Deputy Nate Baker said their K9, Odin, is still an energetic teenager, so it’s important to remember a few things if you see any officer and their K9 out in public.
“Don’t immediately approach the dog or the handler,” Baker said. “…from a distance, ask the handler if it’s OK for you to approach. If it is OK to approach, follow the directions of the handler.”
Odin, a Belgian malinois, could hardly contain his excitement as Baker stroked the dog gently to calm him. As Odin is trained to detain suspects who may be resisting arrest, Baker said it’s important for dog lovers to keep their distance and not overly stress their working police dogs if they happen upon them in public.
“The handler knows the dog better than anyone else,” Baker said. “We know the dog and their behavior and the environment they’re in… The situation could be too stressful for that dog and we don’t want to over-stress the dog.”
A Craig mother charged with criminally negligent homicide after her son perished in a house fire on Christmas Eve is set to appear before a Moffat County judge next week.