Human, canine officers meet in Hobart for training conference
BY KAREN CAFFARINI Post-Tribune correspondent September 24, 2013 2:54PM
Mike Arbour, a police officer from Canada, and his K-9 officer, Falco, wait for their turn to detect drugs hidden in a large commercial truck. | Karen Caffarini/For the Post-Tribune
Updated: October 26, 2013 6:14AM
HOBART — Babe held her own, despite being pint-sized and elderly compared to the other police dogs surrounding her.
The 45-pound black Labrador Retriever proved she was just as capable of sniffing out drugs as the larger and more formidable-looking German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois participating in the annual American Police Canine Association national conference, taking place in Hobart this week.
Monday’s sniff test had the dogs checking for the drugs in a truck, a 53-foot commercial trailer and even a manure-filled horse trailer.
“She’s a veteran. She knows what she’s doing. I just sit back and let her go,” said Babe’s handler, Police Officer Bill Poe of the Knox County Police Department by Vincennes.
Poe said the almost 10-year-old dog, who acted more like a puppy, has been on the force since 2007 and is already certified in narcotics and tracking. She was there to become certified in other areas, including building searches.
Cpl. A. Simon Gresser, who leads Hobart Police Department’s K-9 division, said about 34 police departments are participating in this year’s conference, up 10 percent from 2011, the last time the conference took place in Hobart.
Gresser said handlers and their K-9 officers came from Canada, North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana; instructors came from as far as California and Florida.
The animals and handlers are getting additional training and/or certification in obedience training, aggression control, area search, article search, narcotics and explosives detection, tracking and building search during the conference, which lasts through Friday.
The sessions are taking place at Brickie Bowl, the Little League field and by St. Bridget’s Church at Center Street.
Three new dogs joined the Hobart force in the last year — Spike, Scout and Butch — and Gresser said each needs to obtain some certifications.
Master trainer Bob Anderson, originally from Valparaiso and now living in West Palm Beach, Fla., said another goal of the conference is to help handlers having problems with their dogs.
“They may not be as obedient as the handler would like,” Anderson said. “It all boils down to education. Sometimes the handler didn’t get the education they should have,” he said.
The conference also includes an awards ceremony at the Radisson in Merrillville Thursday night, at which about 11 awards will be presented, including one to a Hobart police officer and K-9 officer.
The Drug Detection Dog of the Year award goes to Hobart Police Officer Ryan Snedecor and the two dogs he worked with this year — Fax, initially, and then Spike, who came on board in February.
Gresser said the department often works with the Drug Enforcement Agency, boosting the amount of narcotics its officers recover each year.