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Maryland Divison of Correction's K-9 Unit Wins National Championship.

The United States Police K-9 Association held its "2000 National Detector Dog Trials" in Johnson City, Tenn., April 15-20. The Maryland Division of Correction (DOG) sent the following officers and their dogs to participate:

* Division of Correction Headquarters Drug Interdiction Unit -- Lt. Jeffrey Edwards and Pepper; Sgt. Mark Flynn and Briar; and Sgt. Debra Keenan and Lucky

* Western Correctional Institution -- Sgt. Mark Tyler and Maverick

* Eastern Correctional Institution -- Sgt. David Sayers and Stormy

The division's teams competed against 82 other police teams. There were no other entries from correctional departments. All teams competed in locations indoors (rooms) and outdoors (vehicles). The division's teams placed first and second departmentally and fourth, fifth, ninth and 15th individually.

The K-9 Unit was established in 1981 with only one correctional officer dog handler in the Hagerstown complex. Through the 1980s and 1990s, extra dogs and handlers were trained. The K-9 Unit originally consisted of a few institutions in the Baltimore, Jessup and Hagerstown regions. The wardens of those respective institutions utilized the K-9 Unit for various patrol and drug interdiction functions. In the late 1980s, the K-9 Unit expanded to a new facility built on Maryland's Eastern Shore -- the Eastern Correctional Institution.

In October 1999, the K-9 Unit was made an official department under the Division of Correction Headquarters Security Operations Unit. The K-9 Unit is commanded by Capt. Michael Ocker and consists of 31 correctional officers and 54 dogs. The dogs include three bloodhounds, 22 patrol dogs and 29 drug interdiction dogs. The K-9 Unit can provide services to all institutions in Maryland.

The K-9 Unit conducts both special searches and random searches. It searches inmates, inmate housing areas, support services areas, inmate work sites, etc. It also can provide drug detection on visitors, staff, mail, vehicles, state property and vehicle check points.

All K-9 units are assigned to the Eastern, Central and Western regions. There is a separate drug interdiction unit. The patrol dog unit has the primary mission of supporting mass movement inside the compounds of medium- and maximum-security facilities. These units support staff and are deployed quickly to problem areas. Patrol dogs also assist staff in control of inmates as well as search for hidden persons or escapees. They can be used to search for evidence, as they can find articles in open areas.

Training for the officer/handler and dog lasts approximately 10 to 12 weeks. The training is conducted at the K-9 Training Center located at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown.

Patrol dogs are purchased from European vendors. The detection dogs are purchased through local vendors and are donated by the public or adopted from the Humane Society. The bloodhounds are donated through local vendors.

K-9 correctional officers receive specialized training in one-hand shooting, night fire, interview and interrogation techniques. They also are trained in drug identification, hidden compartments and packaging techniques.

Additionally, officers receive training in officer safety as it applies to approaching vehicles and suspected narcotic traffickers. They also are trained in compass and map reading, topography and land navigation. Another important training aspect is first aid for dogs.

This summer, the K-9 Unit is receiving specialized helicopter training. This will enable the unit to be familiar with the helicopter as the teams are picked up and deployed in various sites. This training also will allow the unit to be placed in various terrain in preparation to locate hidden persons.
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Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U5MD
Date:Aug 1, 2000
Words:565
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