Canine Officer Mike Gary and Nero, a 3-year-old German Shepherd, search backpacks in the gym of a local school during a random, unannounced inspection of Jefferson Davis Parish schools. (Doris Maricle / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, March 04, 2013 9:25 AM
JENNINGS — The Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office is unleashing its newest crime-fighting duo to take a bite out of crime.
Sandor, a 4-year-old German shepherd previously used by the Welsh Police Department, and Nero, a 3-year-old German shepherd, are teaming up to sniff out drugs and track criminals.
Officer Lane Clement has been training and working as Sandor’s handler for six months. The two have formed a special bond, Clement said.
“He’s the best partner I have ever had,” Clement said. “I wouldn’t know what to do without him. I’d be lost because we’ve become partners. It’s fun to work with him, and he does a great job.”
Clement said he has had a connection with dogs ever since his grandfather worked for the Fenton Police Department.
Officer Mike Gary and Nero have been bonding longer and now work as a team.
“I started out escorting funerals and doing sex offender registrations, but this is completely different,” Gary said. “These dogs have such a strong drive.”
The dogs are trained to sniff out narcotics, track people, apprehend fleeing suspects, and search buildings and other areas. The dogs and their handlers look after each other whether on the streets or at home.
“When he’s at work, Sandor is all wound up and excited, but when we get home he’s a regular dog,” Clement said. “He’s really relaxed and laid-back at home, but when I put his Sheriff Department’s collar on and he sees me in my uniform, he knows it’s time to go to work.”
The two work regular 12-hour shifts patrolling throughout the parish and on Interstate 10. They also assist other law enforcement agencies.
“He’s made three drugs stops on the interstate, which led to the suspects being arrested and some cash and narcotics being seized,” Clement said.
When the dogs smell the drug, their breathing changes and they sit down as close to the area as possible, alerting their handler, Clement said. The alert gives the officers probable cause to search.
Gary said the dogs are a deterrent to some criminals and prevent people from fighting with officers. They also help get drugs off the streets and are a good public relations tool, especially in the schools. The dogs conduct random, unannounced inspections in the local schools.
Responding to both English and German-like commands, the dogs are happy to seek out drugs when directed because they know they will be rewarded, as witnessed by the American Press during a recent school search. Their reward: a small joint of plastic PVC pipe from his handler for a “job well done,” Gary said.
Before taking to the streets, both the deputies and their dogs attended a five-week course designed to familiarize them with one another and to give them the basic K-9 and drug-detection skills. They undergo additional training to perfect their skills and annual recertification at the U.S. K-9 Unlimited dog training academy in Kaplan.
The dogs are initially trained on five different drug odors so they know what they are looking for, Clement said.