Canine patrol unit endorsed to track down drugs in county

QUEENSBURY By this Fall, trained dogs will likely be aiding county law officers by sniffing out drugs and narcotics, plus tracking down fleeing criminals and missing persons. Warren County Supervisors endorsed a plan recently by the county Sheriffs Department to re-establish a canine patrol unit that for years in the 1980s and 1990s had aided police in investigations. Supervisors endorsed the plan after hearing from county Sheriff Bud York that trained dogs would help apprehend drug traffickers and might pay for themselves in drug forfeiture proceeds. Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey Webster will be supervising the canine patrol program, which includes one dog probably a German Shepherd and one officer who is the dog handler, Webster said Wednesday. Deputy Terry Combs of Warrensburg was chosen last week from three deputies applying for the post of handler. The handler and dog would be on duty as a team for 42 hours per week and always on call for the off-hours, he said. The countys prior canine unit had two dogs and two handlers, but was discontinued in 2000 or so when one handler sued the county for compensation for off-duty time caring for his patrol dog, and he won the case. This incident had soured the supervisors on the canine unit idea until county Attorney Paul Dusek said earlier this month that such compensation concerns would be spelled out in the deputies union contract. Since York took office in January, county deputies had lobbied York to re-establish the canine patrol, Webster said. Canine patrols are fun for the handler, and they are very cost-effective because dogs are very efficient in how they work, he said. A trained dog can sniff out a building for intruders two to three times faster and more thoroughly than patrol officers can secure the same premises, he said. In the early 80s when the prior county canine patrol was launched, Webster recalled, a patrol dog on its first day on the job caught a fleeing criminal. A burglary suspect fled on foot from a scene in Queensbury and the patrol dog tracked him down inside a restaurant, Webster said. Webster said that Combs would be sent in early May to the state Police training school for dogs and handlers to begin a multi-month course after which the canine patrol team would be ready for work. He said the canine patrol was great for public relations, considering the dogs prompted a lot of positive feedback from citizens while the handlers were on the job. Theyll be a great asset to the sheriffs department, the county, and law enforcement in general, he said. And its fun to watch them at work.

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