Manís Best Friend is Also His Partner in Crime-Fighting
Posted by: Matt Boster
Date: Jul 31 2012 7:16 AM
Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This verse from John 15:13 expresses law enforcement’s feelings towards their fellow officers, both human and canine. “Having a K-9 to work with is a mix of a patrol zone partner and a member of your own family, all in one. You become close to your dog,” says Corporal Nick Bearden of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit. The relationship between K-9 handlers and their partners is one that can be described but can never truly be understood, unless you walk in the shoes of the K-9 officers.
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office currently has four dedicated officer teams in the K-9 Unit that assist patrol, school resource officers, and other law enforcement agencies. The unit has been recognized for their achievement in the field of K-9 training and drug detection.
In 2011, Deputy Sheriff Steve Key won the 4th quarter award from the USPCA (United States Police Canine Association) when he and his partner “Ella” located 30 lbs. of marijuana in a secret compartment of a fuel tank while on a traffic stop on Interstate 10. Deputy Key and “Ella” won the 1st quarter award in 2012 for his continued fight against the war on drugs with 19 drug arrests made between January 1, 2012 to March 31, 2012. Key and “Ella”, a Belgium Malinois, have been a team since 2009.
Deputy Sheriff Matt Key and his partner “Kayne” have been working together since 2010. “Kayne”, a German Shepherd, are also an award-winning team. At the USPCA Region 1 Field Trials, they placed 3rd in indoor and outdoor competition, and won 3rd place over all. Deputy Key credits his time spent as a Police Explorer when he was a teenager to his interest in law enforcement. His love of dogs has led Key to work as a K-9 officer not only at Walton County but other agencies as well. “I am continuously amazed at how smart and versatile K-9’s can be. Their ability to learn quickly, keen senses, and extreme loyalty make them a true asset to law enforcement.”
Deputy Sheriff Chad Biernacki has been in the spotlight recently, both with and without his partner “Nero”, a Belgium Malinois. Biernacki was recently honored by the American Federation of Police Officers and Concerned Citizens and by Sheriff Michael Adkinson for his actions in saving the life of a 6 day old child. On July 12, Deputy Biernacki won the 2nd quarter USPCA Detector Case award for the hard work put forth on a traffic stop that lead to seizure of several bags of MDMA (also known as Ecstasy), along with narcotic equipment used in the process of distribution. Biernacki and “Nero” have been working as a team since 2009 and placed 1st in the outdoor competition at the USPCA Region 1 Field Trials.
Corporal Nick Bearden and his K-9 partner “Lee” are the last of the team members. “Lee” is the seasoned veteran of the group, with 9 years of performing as a K-9. Even though “Lee” has some age on him, don’t let that fool you. “Lee” is still working hard every time he comes on shift and recently assisted patrol deputies in locating two burglary suspects who’s “track” was approximately 8 hours old. Cpl. Bearden and “Lee” won the USPCA Region 1filed trials by scoring a 199.5 out of a possible 200, which earned them the “Top Dog” Award. During the competition they also placed 2nd in outdoor and indoor testing. Bearden has recently been nominated for the 3rd quarter USPCA Detector and Patrol case for his recent work in the field. “I did a ride-a-long with a K-9 officer before I become a cop and I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.” He is happy in his current position as the Corporal over the K-9 unit and hopes to stay where he in his career for a while.
Since 2009, the Walton County Canine Unit has recovered two stolen vehicles, approximately $40,000 in cash, seized seven vehicles related to narcotics trafficking. There have been numerous felony arrests made for trafficking in controlled substances and there has been a seizure of over $200,000 in counterfeit merchandise. 40 pounds of marijuana, 175 Ecstasy pills along with 97 grams of Ecstasy powder, 45 pounds of cocaine, 6 ounces of crack cocaine, and 4 ounces of methamphetamine have been cleaned up from Walton County by the K-9 unit alone.
Whether they are helping deputies locate narcotics or track down fleeing felons, the four-legged members of WCSO’s are proving everyday they are not only “Man’s Best Friend” but are his partners in crime-fighting as well.