WEST WINDSOR – Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Criminal Justice students got a first-hand look at the use and effectiveness of law enforcement K-9 units during a demonstration on the MCCC quad Oct. 13.
Officers from the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) and the Ewing Police Department brought three K-9 officers on campus, with specialties that include tracking, search and rescue, apprehension of dangerous suspects, detection of explosives, and detecting illegal drugs. Officers rely on their canine partners much as they would a human partner, according to Sgt. Chris Drew of the MCSD.
Drug dogs, Drew said, are trained to seek out odors associated with specific illegal drugs, and are trained through play. During training, towels – used to play toss and tug-of-war with the dog – are saturated with the smell of the drug the dogs are being trained to detect. When on assignment, the K-9 is actually looking for the towel, Drew said.
“We have no partner – our partner is our dog,” Drew said. “And you can basically train a dog to do practically anything.”
MCSD Officer Dave Smithison brought out K-9 Maverick, a bloodhound, that he described as “bred and engineered to track.” Bloodhounds, he said, are frequently used to find missing persons, and to track suspects who have fled on foot.
By using the K-9 officers, Drew said one dog can complete a search of the average home in five to ten minutes, a task that might take 10 offices more than half an hour.