DARKE COUNTY — After being sworn in by Sheriff Toby Spencer, Darke County’s newest crime fighter wagged her tail and mugged proudly for the cameras.
“Britta,” a five-year old German Shepherd, joined fellow canine cop “Eric” in certification exercises at the Sheriff’s Office Monday.
Each dog team undergoes state certification once a year. Britta has been training with her partner, Deputy Mike Day, since July.
Britta is no rookie pup, however. She previously worked for the Camden, Ohio, Police Department for two years until the retirement of that agency’s chief of police.
“They decided to donate the dog to us, at no cost,” said Deputy Mike Burns, primary dog trainer for the Darke County Sheriff’s Office.
The training, however, focused more on Britta’s human partner.
“It was more about Mike becoming acclimated with what Britta already knew,” he said.
The Sheriff’s canine teams have been certified in a number of law enforcement tasks, including obedience, building search, area search, criminal apprehension, handler protection, tracking, article search, narcotics detection, and canine health and first aid.
The dogs train continually with their partners but also spend at least 16 hours a month training with a group of 11 other dogs in the region.
One of the day’s certification exercises was the apprehension of an armed suspect. David Jones of Preble County volunteered to serve as a would-be criminal, wearing a thick, protective sleeve on his left arm.
With Jones firing a blank from a revolver, a well-trained Britta waited for the order to apprehend. Once given the go-ahead, Britta swiftly ran and attached her teeth to Jones’ arm. She resisted all of his attempts to break free, not letting go until commanded to do so by her handler.
As Britta showed off her skills to those assembled to watch, one of the observing officers chuckled, saying, “They can do just about everything we can except drive a cruiser and fill out paperwork.”
German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are among the most common breeds of police dogs in the United States. They typically serve about nine or 10 years on the job before retiring. Upon leaving the force, they often spend the rest of their days in the company of their handler, as there is a strong emotional attachment built after years of service together.
The Darke County Sheriff’s Office is no stranger to canine units. Burns said that with a few exceptions, the agency has had canine officers on duty since 1980.
It is expected that Britta and Day, along with German Shepherd Eric and his partner Deputy Jay Pearson, will provide the county with excellent canine coverage.
“Both of them together are a great asset to Darke County,” said Spencer.