Patrollers work with dogged dedication

Canines are protectors, companions to law enforcement officers
By: Jenifer Gee gold country news service
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In an abandoned county building, a trained police canine searches for drugs. With dogged persistence the German shepherd sniffs every corner and space until he finds the marijuana, dope or crystal methamphetamine that was planted for him to locate. When he finds it, he sits, looks up expectantly at his handler and is rewarded with what he’s really been looking for – his chew toy. “It’s about play,” said Deputy Shawn Rosner. “That drive helps them find narcotics because they associate narcotics with their toy. They know they get their toy and play when they find the odor.” Rosner and his canine partner, Scout, are among the 11 deputies and their partners who make up the Placer County Sheriff’s Department K-9 unit. Rosner, a nine-year veteran of the team, said he loves the unique opportunities the job offers. This week, he provided a look at some of the training officers and their canines undergo and what their duties entail. To start with, trainer John Riboni will select the right dogs when they are about 1 to 2 years old from breeders in Europe. Riboni said law enforcement buys most of their dogs overseas because they are typically bred from German shepherds with a strong hunting drive and the ability to defend themselves when needed. Riboni said the hunting drive is important in training a dog to search for hidden narcotics. The ability to fight is key for a patrol dog if they need to guard themselves or their partner against an attack. About 75 percent of the sheriff’s squad are dogs that can both search for narcotics and serve on patrols. Riboni said the police dogs are never vicious unless they are provoked or sense that their handler is in imminent danger. “We train them to defend themselves,” Riboni said. “We can’t train them to be aggressive.” Rosner said the dogs can be an intimidating force when dealing with potentially dangerous suspects. They are trained to bite almost anywhere except the face, groin and hands. The dogs are also able to search a building for danger or drugs in half the time it would take a team of deputies. “We’re talking 1,400 pounds of pressure per square inch in the jaw, add the teeth and the fact that they can run up to 30 mph,” Rosner said. The dogs initially cost about $7,500 and then training expenses are added to that, Rosner added. Rosner said the mix of fighter yet subdued animal is apparent when the deputies do demonstrations at schools and other places and the canines sit patiently while others pet them. Besides receiving standard training in their first few years, canines and their handlers train year-round. There are special training events such as practicing with a helicopter, being lowered down a building or jumping into the water to catch a suspect. When the day is over, however, many of the dogs go home with their handlers. Deputy Stacey Toy-Denardi said while working with her partner, 10-year-old Chopper, the two have developed an almost indescribable bond. “You develop something that’s incredible,” Toy-Denardi said. “He knows me like nobody knows me.” Toy-Denardi said not only does Chopper accompany her for daily work duties, he comes along on family trips. This month she celebrated his 10th birthday by making him a cake and giving him his favorite food, apples. “There’s a satisfaction knowing my partner is right next to me,” Toy-Denardi said. “Knowing that if anything would happen, he’ll give his life for me. It’s unconditional.” Rosner said Scout is his second partner to come home with him after his first canine partner, Ranger, died a few years ago. He said Ranger and Scout are both considered members of his family. He added that he feels lucky to work with Scout on a daily basis. “The thing I find so great is every day they give us their hard work, honor, loyalty and courage and they ask for almost nothing in return,” Rosner said.