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'Every dog has their day' North Dakota K9s recertify in Dickinson

18 law enforcement K-9s, representing 11 North Dakota law enforcement departments, gathered in Dickinson on Tuesday to conduct annual recertification testing

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18 law enforcement K-9s, representing 11 North Dakota law enforcement departments, gathered in Dickinson on Tuesday to conduct annual recertification testing. Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Photo by Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)

Germans, Belgians and more gathered to test their mettle against their peers. The 18 law enforcement K-9s, representing 11 North Dakota law enforcement departments, gathered in Dickinson on Tuesday to conduct annual recertification testing for narcotics detection in an event hosted by the Stark County Sheriff’s Office and Dickinson Police Department.

In blue were representatives from Williston, Jamestown, Bismarck, Dickinson, Belfield and Mandan police departments, joined by their brown counterparts from Stark, Adams, Bowman, McKenzie, Dunn and McHenry county sheriff’s offices to show off their skills.

The testing involved K-9s arriving at a scene with four vehicles, two with drivers giving authorization to enter the vehicle and two with drivers denying entry. The handlers proceeded to have the K-9s search the four vehicles in an attempt to locate 2 hidden stashes of narcotics — heroin and cocaine.

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18 law enforcement K-9s, representing 11 North Dakota law enforcement departments, gathered in Dickinson on Tuesday to conduct annual recertification testing. Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Photo by Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)

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18 law enforcement K-9s, representing 11 North Dakota law enforcement departments, gathered in Dickinson on Tuesday to conduct annual recertification testing. Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Photo by Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)

The second round of testing involved entering a building with three rooms and 2 hidden stashes of narcotics, also involving heroin and cocaine. Handlers could opt to recertify their K-9s in additional scents including marijuana and methamphetamines, further testing that came with its own unique grading system separate from the regularly scheduled certification.

“We have a couple of single purpose K-9s, but the majority of them are dual purpose,” Sheriff Corey Lee said. “Each K-9 will need to achieve 75% proficiency to pass, finding at least three of the four stashes in the vehicle and room searches.”

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18 law enforcement K-9s, representing 11 North Dakota law enforcement departments, gathered in Dickinson on Tuesday to conduct annual recertification testing. Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Photo by Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)

The event was supported by the Bismarck Police Department in conjunction with the National Police Canine Association, a nationally recognized accreditation organization that certifies certifications in North Dakota.

“We’ve been members of the association since 2009,” Lee said. “The NPCA promotes and assists in police service dog certification and training in prevention and detection of crimes. These dogs have to certify every year in narcotics and apprehension, but we aren’t doing apprehension today.”

Lee explained that the certification is handler specific and that K-9s must certify with their individual handlers.

“Departments can’t just grab a dog and test them. You have to test and pass a team with the assigned handler,” Lee said. “So this isn’t just a test of the K-9s, but the handlers as well.”

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Every team performed admirably, according to Lee.

“Performance has been good, a little better than average,” Lee said. “Every dog has their day. Some struggle some days and others come and just knock it out of the park. You just never know what you’re going to get in these tests.”

James B. Miller, Jr. is the Editor of The Dickinson Press in Dickinson, North Dakota. He strives to bring community-driven, professional and hyper-local focused news coverage of southwest North Dakota.
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