From Europe to Rankin, these dogs are taking millions of dollars in drugs off the streets

Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 6:32 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - For the dogs that make up the Rankin County K9 Unit, it’s all game.

But for the Rankin County deputies that enlist their services, that game means getting millions of dollars in illegal drugs off the streets.

“Sometimes it’s large amounts... sometimes, it’s smaller amounts. As far as what they’ve recovered... every year it’s millions of dollars,” said Chris Picou, supervisor over the department’s K9 and Interdiction Units. “All the dogs have really great resumes.”

Rankin County has been enlisting the help of K9s for years. Today, the department has four drug interdiction dogs and one explosives detection dog.

Those K9s include Voodoo, who often make headlines for sniffing out large caches of illegal drugs. Picou says all the dogs and their handlers deserve credit.

“Detecting drugs in the county, these dogs have been called to do that. Tracking suspects... They’ve been very successful at that, too,” Picou said. “They really do well; they’re recognized as one of the best units in the state right now.”

“Every year, we have a state certification. These dogs usually are in the top tier of all of that. So, we’re very proud of our unit, very proud of the handlers that work extremely hard, train hard, because it’s an everyday thing,” he said. “It’s not like my pistol... I just put it on, go to work, go home and take it off.”

“These dogs have to be trained every day. And they have to be taken care of every day. So, it’s added on the K9 officer to take care of those things.”

Rankin County K9 demonstration

The animals are brought in from Europe, for around $10,000 apiece.

Most of Rankin County’s come from the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, or Germany. Right now, the department has one German Shepherd and four Belgian Malinois.

“If you buy one already completely trained, you’re looking at about $18,500. Just to get a dog that’s suited for this line of work, you’re looking [at] anywhere [from] $7,000 to $8,000, plus the shipping,” he said.

“In Europe, they have it pretty much down to a science. Their breeding programs are top-notch. And the way they imprint their puppies to be able to do the police work... they get that imprinting over there.”

The dogs have to have certain traits, including confidence and sociability. Confidence can be seen in how the animals hold onto a toy.

During a drug search demonstration, Picou pointed out that Fox, a Belgian Malinois, held a small pipe at the back of his mouth, rather than at the front.

The pipe, his toy, was given to him after he sniffed out a small amount of cocaine inside the panel of a white Ford pickup.

During another demonstration, Iwon, also a Malinois, latched onto Picou’s arm with his whole mouth, rather than nipping at him.

“If it’s just his front teeth, he has a lot of fear,” he said. “He’s a fear-biter. We don’t like that.”

At the same time, the dogs have to get along with people, including their handlers’ children.

“They’re not attack dogs,” he said. “We don’t have attack dogs. They’re taught to catch and hold [suspects]. We don’t want to create lifelong injuries. That’s not part of it.”

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