Posted on: April 3, 2017

Wise County Sheriff’s Office hosts USPCA Regional Trials & Certification at Canine Training Facility

By David Talley | Wise County Messenger


APPREHENDED – K-9 Unit Deputy Jamie O’Bannon takes a bite from Rayco at the USPCA Regional Trials and Certification event. K-9 teams ran several exercises, including patrol, narcotics and explosives searches and tracking. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Wise County’s new police canine training facility south of Decatur saw its first paw prints this week.

Law enforcement officers from around the state visited the facility Monday and Tuesday to participate in the United States Police Canine Association 2017 Regional Trials and Certification, hosted by the Wise County Sheriff’s Office.

The event used the department’s impound yard Wednesday and held trials Thursday and Friday in an empty Chico ISD building.

Sgt.-JT-Manoushagian-and-K-9-partner-RaycoON PATROL – Sgt. JT Manoushagian and K-9 partner Rayco with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office complete an exercise at the USPCA Regional Trials and Certification held for the first time in Wise County this week. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Sgt. JT Manoushagian said they had just under a year to prepare for the event, which brought around 25 canine teams from as far as Abilene and Wichita Falls to the newly finished facility on Old Reunion Road, just south of Joe Wheeler Park.

Manoushagian said the Wise County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit has three teams and a full-time trainer, and the new facility will elevate the already-elite division.

“The cool thing about this is this will be here for generations to come,” he said. “This will give future generations of dog handlers the ability to come out here and do what they need to do to train and be the best they can be for the sheriff’s office and for Wise County.”

The sheriff’s office is in a law enforcement region stretching from Interstate 35 west to the state line, and Wise County dogs have consistently been among the area’s best since the unit was started in 2013.

Manoushagian said the region rotates trial locations, and the office learned last year it had been selected to host the event in 2017.

“We knew we wanted to bring this event here because we wanted to highlight the program we’d built and the support we had from our community,” he said. As we’ve grown as a unit here, it kind of made sense to step out and start hosting.”

A sizable group of citizens stopped by Monday and Tuesday to watch the trials from the bleachers set up nearby. Teams were judged Monday morning on agility, navigating a tricky obstacle course under the close watch of officials. In the afternoon, box searches were conducted with the dogs using their noses to locate a “suspect” hiding in one of six large wooden boxes on the course.

Tuesday, Manoushagian said the department focused on three aspects of apprehension, called a false start, a recall and a straight apprehension.

“A false start is where the dog and the handler are positioned at one end of the field,” he said. “About halfway down the middle of the field is a decoy. That’s something the dog is fixated on and knows, ‘I’m going to bite that guy.’ With the false start, the bad guy runs away and the handler tells the dog, who’s off the leash, to ‘stay’ and that dog has to stay.”

With a recall, Manoushagian said the dog is given another challenge with which to contend. The setting is the same, but the dog is given the order to apprehend the subject and then told to stop.

“That’s something that’s incredible about these dogs and this type of force applied,” he said. “With other force, you can’t stop. You can’t stop a bullet, but you can tell this dog to, ‘stop’ and they will.”

An apprehension exercise is designed to have the dog subdue the subject. The entire week of trials is crucial to the certification process, though, Manoushagian said. A K-9 team’s actions must be above reproach in order to meet the continually growing risks and scrutiny of citizens.

“That’s very important when we’re out there in the public, and we’re using these dogs to search vehicles and to search for bad guys,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re not violating anybody’s rights and that we’re doing things by the books, the way it’s intended. These trials allow us to do that and to walk away with that certification that says they can do what we say they can do.”

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