Police work went to the dogs Saturday afternoon inside the Great Plains Coliseum during the inaugural Southwest Oklahoma Police Narcotics K-9 Competition.
The event offered some of the state’s four-legged officers and their two-legged partners opportunity to shine in the spotlight before an audience.
The competition, sponsored by Crime Stoppers of Southwest Oklahoma, was the first for Lawton. Lawton Police Detective Ken Dixon helped organize the day’s competition.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever done one like this,” he said. “I know we’ll do this again, at least another year. I want to make this an annual event.”
Fourteen teams of K-9 and human officers from across Oklahoma converged on Lawton to compete at what they do best. The first competition would be to find the fastest narcotic detection and the second would be the hardest hit/takedown tactics for which they are trained.
During the first stage, narcotic detection, the newest team in town took their first run at finding where the drugs were hidden inside the Crime Stoppers vehicle parked inside the venue.
With Lawton Police Officer Briar Adams in tow, his K-9 partner Yazzy, a 1¾-year-old Belgian Malinois, race to begin an open-air sniff for narcotics. It took them one minute and 33 seconds but they found the spot. Yazzy was rewarded with her favorite red squeaky toy.
“She’s highly toy-motivated,” he said.
The pair partnered up about seven weeks ago. Adams said there were four weeks of school and the past three weeks they’ve been on the streets. They’ve already bonded.
“She’s more than a partner, she’s more of a best friend,” he said. “She stays with me.”
Adams said being an officer was a dream and for almost four years, he’s been living it. Partnering with Yazzy makes it two dreams come true.
“I’ve always been drawn to dogs,” he said.
Lawton Police Detective Christopher Hally and his K-9 partner Juliet moved quickly during their run in the competition. With a 10-second deduction for an accurate hit for drugs inside the vehicle, they clocked in at six seconds to set a high bar for the rest of the competition.
Hally said Juliet is trained for everything from narcotics detection to building and suspect searches as well as apprehensions. It takes eight hours of weekly training to stay on top of the game. It’s about protecting and preparing your partner, he said.
“You’re not just sending a dog in,” he said. “You’re sending in your best friend.”
While officer careers can go into 30 or more years in service, K-9 officers average between four to six years before retirement, depending on how they’re utilized, Hally said.
Of course, in dog years, that can be anywhere from 28 to 42 years before they receive their Milk Bone pension plan. And they’ll live with their handler, Hally said. While in the department, the dogs go home with the officers and interact with the family and pets, but they’re not “house dogs” per se, he said.
“Once they retire,” he said, “they transition into family pet life.”
Traveling down to Lawton from the northeast part of the state, Wagner County Sheriff’s Deputy Marque Baldwin and his 5-year-old partner Ice, a German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix, made an impression with their drug hunt; they made their find in 41 seconds.
Baldwin said he’s worked with K-9 officers for a good chunk of his career that began, first, in South Detroit, Mich., followed by 21 years with the Broken Bow Police Department. He said he’d first trained Ice for another officer. Now, they are partners.
“God’s been good to me,” he said.
While the competition is a good thing, Baldwin tipped his hat for a potentially primary draw down to Lawton for the day’s competition.
“I hear the chicken fried steaks are pretty good in this part of the state,” he said.
A veteran of competitions like this, Chickasaw Lighthorse Patrol Captain Chad Hill said this is the first one he’s been in in a while. There’s a reason why, when one is held, he and his partner are ready to roll.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said.