By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
CULLMAN — The Cullman Police Department has two new recruits: A German Shepherd named Drago, and an energetic Belgian Malinois named Suki.
The two dogs — the first additions to the departments revamped K-9 unit — are currently enrolled in training with their handlers. The police dogs are set to join the force within the next few weeks.
K-9 officers Jason Mickle and Scott Sanford spent Wednesday morning working with the dogs, playing out some training situations. In one scenario, Suki helped subdue a suspect. She then watched intently as an officer searched him, prepared to strike if the suspect moves.
“She’s trained to just watch the situation, follow commands, and attack if the suspect tries to escape,” police chief Kenny Culpepper explained.
It has been nearly six years since city police have had a K-9 unit, with the last one eventually disbanding after K-9 officers transferred into other positions.
Culpepper said the addition will be a huge asset for his department.
“The dogs are being trained for search and rescue, plus we can use them as drug dogs,” he said. “It will certainly enhance our capabilities.”
Culpepper said having the dogs on duty will give officers a leg up in any potential manhunt.
“For example, if we’re having to do a search, we can send the dog in ahead to find the suspect and alert officers to his whereabouts,” he said. “It could also help us track burglars who have run from the scene. It can have life-saving benefits for officers, as well as the community.”
Currently, the city police department coordinates with the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office to use their K-9 unit for drug searches.
“Now, we’ll be able to train and work together with the county,” Mickle said. “We can complement one another.”
Mickle and Samford — along with Suki and Drago — are currently attending a 13-week training program at the Huntsville Police Department. Once that is complete, and proper certifications are filed, the two dogs will officially be on duty.
“We teach them basic commands, then move on to distance commands,” Mickle said of the training. “We also teach them agility and how to get through obstacles, in case we have to send them through a window, or over a fence. They’re also being taught to detect illegal narcotics.”
Culpepper said the dogs can also track human odors.
“That way, if a thief dropped something at the scene of a crime, the dogs are taught to track their scent,” he said. “These dogs are really jacks of all trades.”
As the year goes on, Culpepper said he would like to see two more officers trained for K-9 duty.
“That way, we could have someone on duty at all times, so we could get someone out immediately,” he said.
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 225.