...and a perfect nose for drugs

Staff writer

The crime-fighting duo of Marion police officer Mike Stone and his canine partner Legion, realized a rare accomplishment in 2016.

“Last year, we had 35 canine deployments and 35 arrests,” Stone said as he held up a folder about two inches thick. “That’s a 100 percent arrest/deployment ratio. It was more luck than anything, but it was a busy year.”

Although luck may contribute in some instances, it is more likely that the 20 hours of training they put in each month play more of a part in their achievement.

Stone and Legion are part of the Heart of America Police Dog Association a nonprofit, member-run organization of law enforcement officers and professional canine handlers from Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri, that provides certifications for canines that meet or exceed national standards.

Last week was a slow week according to Stone. So he and Legion, and McPherson County canine duo Chris Summers and Ravi took the opportunity to brush up on skills.

“Chris had been on vacation in Florida so he wanted to make sure Ravi was ready for street deployment again,” Stone said. “We’re friends. We usually go and train in Salina, McPherson, Junction City, or come here. It helps the dogs to get out of their normal training environments with different circumstances.”

In addition to drilling for marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, and methamphetamine scents, Stone, Summers, Legion, and Ravi trained on tracking, evidence, and bite work using resources at the City Building, city shop, and fire department.

“We put them in real world situations,” Stone said. “We do mock traffic stops and use a lot of positive reinforcement.”

They used a thickly protected “bite sleeve” and a special PVC pipe during bite work.

“The dogs are trained to bite and hold,” Stone said. “We get them agitated and then give the command to bite.”

In detaining a suspect, he said, using police dogs is on the same “force continuum” as a taser, which comes only after talking and attempting to use hands, but prior to drawing a firearm.

Tracking is usually done using hotdogs and footsteps, he said.

“We cut up hotdogs and put one piece in a footprint, take another step and put another piece down, and so on,” he said. “The point is to get their nose on the ground.”

The leash Legion normally is on is twice as long as the two-foot leash most trainers uses.

“That’s something most trainers don’t do,” he said. “But my goal is to get him to be totally independent on evidence searches.”

He gave as an example a hypothetical suspect last seen carrying a gun down an alleyway, then apprehended several blocks away without it.

““It is very difficult for dogs that are handler dependent to do evidence work,” Stone said. “They will go right back to the handler once they’re let off the leash.

“Handler-independent dogs are able to search on their own. They look for an item that doesn’t match; the thing with a human scent.”

Stone said both Legion and Ravi passed all of last week’s tests flawlessly.

“You can’t just go to any kennel and pick one out at random,” Stone said. “They are tested before they enter into training, and the drive in these dogs is just insane. They have no fear.”

Last modified Jan. 5, 2017

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