Oregon State Police announced the addition of two new members to the department.
One has black hair and brown eyes and answers to “Thunder.” He is a 17-month-old black Labrador trained as a drug detection dog. “Hank” is a 23-month-old yellow Labrador and is trained in the same field.
The state police now have 10 drug-sniffing canines in the agency to assist OSP and other law enforcement agencies.
Sgt. David Beck, state police drug dog program coordinator, said Hank is stationed in Bend and Thunder in Ontario.
“When we have troopers detain vehicles on the highway and reasonable suspicion of drugs, we have dogs to search without consent and without a warrant,” Beck said. “ … If we have a trained drug dog walk around the vehicle and the dog alerts, then the troopers can search the vehicle because that gives them probable cause.”
The initial cost of purchasing the animal and training both the dog and handler is the largest outlay for the force, Beck said. Past that, costs include the trooper’s salary, dog food, and veterinary costs, he said.
Both dogs are stationed on major highways in the state and can work with local law enforcement agencies as well, said District 57 State Representative Greg Smith, R-Heppner. Smith and District 10 state senator Jackie Winters, R-Salem, were able to include the two additional canines in the budget.
“We need to have dogs spread out on the interstate so when law enforcement find themselves in that situation, they have that resource available,” Smith said. “This is an effort to prevent narcotics-related crime and give officers the back-up they need.”
In 2011, the eight OSP drug-detection canines and their handlers were involved in law enforcement proceedings that resulted in the seizure of over 600 pounds of marijuana, 84 pounds of methamphetamine, 58 pounds of cocaine, more than eight pounds of heroin, six pounds of psilocybin mushrooms and other items related to drug crimes, according to an OSP press release.
Beck said dogs are trained by a vendor, while the handlers are trained by Beck and in a two-week class.
“About 99 percent of what our troopers do is out on the highways and they may have an interest in intercepting narcotics and getting the criminal element off the highway,” Beck said. “We make the selection for the best candidate and place them where the dog will benefit citizens the most.”
Contact Anna Willard at email@example.com or 541-564-4536.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.