Pelham hosts law enforcement K-9 conference

Jud Barnes of the Shelby County Sheriff's Office pats K-9 Askel as they wait to board the military helicopter for training. (Reporter Photo / Jon Goering)

Jud Barnes of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office pats K-9 Askel as they wait to board the military helicopter for training. (Reporter Photo / Jon Goering)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—Police, military and dogs from K-9 units across Alabama and Georgia gathered at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena on Sept. 3 and 4 for the first ever Alabama Police and Military K-9 Conference and Vendor Show.

K-9 experts and trainers from across the country led classroom workshops about K-9 health, tracking and scent, behavior, training tips for handlers and legal updates.

“It’s kind of like a one-stop shop,” Pelham Police Sergeant and event organizer Steve Johnson said. “(Officers) come together in one place and get a lot of training.”

Dr. Brooke Jordan of the North Shelby County Animal Hospital led “K-9 First Aid.” The workshop covered various health risks K-9s may encounter in the field, including toxins, poison fumes and “general wounds” such as lacerations, foot injuries and heat stress and stroke, Jordan explained.

Scott Clark of High Drive K-9 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., led courses on bite work for patrol dogs. Patrol dogs “search and locate… and apprehend” suspects, Clark explained. Developing a “nice, solid, confident dog” is key, he explained.

David Adebimpe of Annapolis, Md., discussed odor and scent with officers. Adebimpe works with Scent Logix, a company that develops “pseudo” explosives, mold and narcotics to be used in training.

“If it’s out there, they will find it,” Adebimpe said of the trained dogs.

The conference also included hands-on work for handlers and K-9s, including a mock tractor-trailer search and helicopter scenario, both led by Ricky Farley of the Alabama K-9 Law Enforcement Training Center.

Dogs and their handlers practiced boarding a military helicopter behind the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena. They were then flown into Oak Mountain State Park where the dog was deployed to apprehend a decoy suspect.

The helicopter scenario drill prepared the dogs for situations such as locating a lost child in a remote location, apprehending a suspect or finding an injured officer, Farley explained.

“It’s good for the dogs to have some training,” Farley said. “It gives (the dogs and officers) a general knowledge before they have to do it in real life.”

“Not a lot of agencies do it,” K-9 trainer Beth Lisenby said of the helicopter drills. “It does need to be part of the training, you never know when you’re going to need it.”