While Jefferson County Sheriff Gerald Robinson said Tuesday that two K-9s who are working with their handlers in the department’s patrol division are enough to get the job done, he would like to add a search-and-rescue dog in the near future.
“We’ve had so much destruction from storms in this state and it’s not a question of if it’s going to happen here but a question of when it’s going to happen here,” Robinson said during an address to the Downtown Pine Bluff Rotary Club at the Pine Bluff Country Club.
He said he has been talking to people about adding a search-and-rescue dog, which would be used not only in this area, but whereever it was needed.
“That’s what being good neighbors is all about,” Robinson said.
The program Tuesday was about the sheriff office’s K-9s and Robinson brought Sgt. Thaddeus Arnold, who works with his partner Sgt. Reis, and Lt. Yohance Brunson, deputy commander of the patrol division, to the meeting.
Robinson said the sheriff’s office didn’t start using K-9s until the 1990s, when former Sheriff Boe Fontaine brought them aboard.
“They’re not only an important part of the sheriff’s office, they’re a part of the family,” Robinson said.
He said in 2011, the department had to retire two K-9s — Sgt. Duak and Sgt. Prinz — and thanks to local businesswoman Wanda Bateman, replaced one of the dogs almost immediately. That dog was Sgt. Andor.
A few months later, Sgt. Reis, who is paired with Arnold, was acquired.
“They’re not just regular dogs,” Robinson said. “They’re treated as officers and if someone hurts one of the dogs, it’s just like they’re hurting an officer. That’s how seriously we take it.”
On Monday, Arnold and Sgt. Reis were involved in the capture of a man who was allegedly driving a stolen car and ran from the car when it was disabled by the On-Star System in the vehicle.
Robinson said the adage “Take A Bite Out Of Crime” is appropriate with the dogs, who when chasing a suspect, “can run a whole lot faster than we do.” He also said that while Sgt. Reis didn’t bite the suspect during the chase, which ended when the man ran into a house, he was hot on his heels.
In addition to chasing down suspects, Robinson said both Sgt. Reis and Sgt. Andor are trained in drug detection, and Arnold and Sgt. Reis demonstrated that on the parking lot of the country club when the meeting was over.
After hiding several package containing simulated drugs in various locations, Arnold got the dog out of his vehicle and after giving the command for “search” in the foreign language Sgt. Reis is trained in, was dragged along while Sgt. Reis sniffed out the packages, then sat down in front of where they had been hidden. For each successful find, Sgt. Reis was rewarded with his favorite toy, a tennis ball that he happily chased across the lot.
“Drugs are a major problem, not just in Jefferson County but all over the nation,” Robinson said. “The K-9s are just one of the tools we have to make the job of our officers easier.”
Asked about the costs involved, Robinson said it costs about $8,000 to purchase and train a dog. The dogs generally start working when they’re about 2 years old and retire at about age 8 to the home of their handler.
Sgt. Reis lives with Arnold and his family, and Arnold said the dog “is just another baby.
“My dog works and wants to work and he can wear me out sometimes,” Arnold said.