- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2001

Officer Kevin Kelleher of the Norfolk Police Department lumbered across the open field toward the black-and-brown German shepherd.
The dog became noticeably agitated at the first glimpse of the officer in a camouflaged, overstuffed suit but was restrained by his handler. As Officer Kelleher got closer, he suddenly raised his arms and made a series of threatening motions. Still, the dog remained poised.
The handler gave an almost inaudible command and turned the dog loose. In the next moment, the German shepherd sprang at Officer Kelleher, clamped his jaws on the officers left elbow. The policeman turned his body, swinging the dog through the air. Both fell to the ground, where the two engaged in a life-or-death struggle.
Suddenly, it was over.
The dog stood, wagging its tail, ears back sheepishly as Officer Kelleher rubbed its head. Soon the German shepherd was replaced by a new dog, and the drill was repeated.
The exercise was part of a two-day meeting in Charles County, where about 40 police dogs and their handlers from federal, state and local agencies exchanged the latest techniques in canine crime fighting. The seminar, hosted by the Charles County Sheriffs Department and sponsored by the North American Police Work Dog Association, offered courses in aggression control, narcotics and explosive detection, tactical building searches and problem solving.
Officer Brian Burdette of the Frederick Police Department has been a handler for 10 years and is one of the associations master trainers. He said although K-9 units have been around for a long time, lately there has been a greater specialization in what they are asked to do.
Decades ago, he said, all police dogs were used for was to bite and to hold back crowds. In the 1980s, demand grew for dogs that could sniff out drugs, particularly crack cocaine. Now police departments are taking further advantage of canines, and training seminars have become more common as police try to prepare for new challenges.
"With Columbine you really saw an influx of people wanting explosive-detecting dogs," said Officer Burdette, referring to the shooting rampage at the high school near Littleton, Colo.
"In todays world, you cant get a bomb threat and say, 'Dont worry about it," said Sgt. Vinny Weaver, Charles County K-9 unit supervisor, who has spent 15 years as a police dog handler.
In Charles Countys 200-member police force, the K-9 unit consists of eight dogs, almost all German shepherds. Five are patrol dogs, two are explosives-detecting dogs and one dog solely detects narcotics. Three of the patrol dogs also are cross-trained to detect narcotics. Sgt. Weaver estimates his department gets about 15 calls per dog per month.
In fact, during the seminar Charles County Cpl. Chip Martin was called away with his partner, Sety, to flush out a suspect in a domestic abuse case from a town house. Turned out the suspect wasnt there.
At home, Cpl. Martin says 4-year-old Sety is "part of the family." He describes how Sety — a German shepherd — plays patiently with his 2-year-old son, Hunter, and his 11-year-old Labrador retriever.
Police Chief Peter J. Mango of the East Fallowfield Township in Pennsylvania traveled with his dog, Mandy, to the Charles County seminar.
Mandy is the forces first police dog. Chief Mango says he has seen a reduction in crime in the three years Mandy has been on the force.
"The biggest thing we do every day is being a visible deterrent in the community," Chief Mango said.

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