Monday, July 31, 2017

K9 Drug Work & Expect the Unexpected

This week was a short work week for me as my final week of work is coming up, working six days straight then three off before my final two days. Even though it was a short week, it was packed full of good training as well as various stops and calls.  On my first day back, we started the shift by having a group meeting to discuss various topics regarding the park and the protection division. The meeting went well as I was able to learn some of the smaller issues and decision making processes that the rangers have to go through in order to make sure everything is done correctly for the smoothest operation of the division. After the meeting finished, upon my request we all went outside to get a group photo since most of the rangers were present with the exception of Ranger Johnson. I wanted to have a group picture of us all to have to commemorate my summer two internship. After the picture was taken, it was time to start patrolling, as I would be riding along with Ranger Little and K9 Konyak.
From Left to Right: Ranger Little, K9 Konyak, Chief Ranger Cully, Ranger Schreck, myself, Ranger VanNest, Ranger Flint, Ranger Summerling. Photo Credit to Field Trainee Ranger Tim Cole.
AR-15  Manufacturer
We started out our patrol on Sleepy Valley Road running radar and watching vehicles for any violations they may be committing. After a few minutes of sitting in “our spot”, we observed a car that was familiar to us, going 5 mph over the posted speed limit so we initiated a traffic stop. When making the approach, Ranger Little identified the two occupants of the car as a married couple (we found out during this stop) that we had pulled over the week before and cited for possession of Marijuana and driving on a suspended license. We asked both occupants out of the car as Ranger Little wanted to search the vehicle and run K9 Konyak on the car. As they stepped out they admitted to again have possession of marijuana in the car, so Ranger Little ran Konyak as he hit on the drugs in the car, then proceeded to finish his search of the vehicle. At the conclusion of the stop, the passenger of the car got a citation for possession of marijuana, and then was free to go. It’s not the first time that while on patrol rangers and I have come across repeat offenders, as it is sad that some people will not learn their lesson from the mistakes they make.

AR-15 Parts from Disassembled Rifle
The rest of the night was pretty slow due to Hot Springs PD being out in force for a warrant and speed initiative that they were doing. Ranger Schreck we heard was on a stop, so we went to assist. By the time we found his exact location the stop was almost complete and our help was not needed. It was beginning to get dark, so Ranger Little and I decided it was time to go to “our spot” to look out for any drivers that may be impaired by either drugs or alcohol while driving, or just reckless drivers in general. The stretch of road we were sitting on can be dangerous to someone that is driving erratically. We conducted a few traffic stops throughout the night, giving verbal warnings for speeding, roadway markings, expired registration, and some break lights that were out. One of our last stops though was the most enjoyable to Ranger Little and myself because of the “suspects” we pulled over. Both of us observed a car speeding down Gorge Road which is the road we on, with the radar reading 55 mph, so we initiated a traffic stop. As the car was pulling over, they themselves put on red and blue strobes from inside their car, which threw Ranger Little and myself off a bit. It was then we realized that they must be undercover cops for the city, so we pulled up next to the car and found out that they were indeed undercover cops that were out as part of the cities initiative. We had a quick talk with them about their night then we headed away as it was time for our shift to end.

AR-15 Partially Broken Down
The following day I would again be riding with Ranger Little and Konyak. To start off the shift, I had asked Ranger Little for instruction on how to disassemble and clean our AR-15s. After being shown the proper way to disassemble, clean, then reassemble the weapon, Ranger Little left me to do it for about an hour straight while he downloaded body camera footage and prepared to go out on patrol. I must say that after practicing disassembling and reassembling the AR-15 for an hour straight, it becomes muscle memory. Once Ranger Little was done, he came down to see how I was doing, inspected the weapon and approved my reassembly of his AR-15, gave me some more tips and training, then it was time to start the evening out of the office.

K9 Konyak and his ball
Ranger Little decided to do some more training with Konyak, which is always a great learning experience for me. We headed over to the maintenance yard where we would be conducting the training. For the first part of training, we would be working on biting while on leash (6ft leash), as I would use a hidden bite sleeve (in a sweatshirt) instead of the big red suit I had worn the previous week. For the drills, I would be “breaking” into cars and have to follow Ranger Littles commands or else I would be bit. I also was given a cap gun to use to imitate the sound of a firearm going off, but unfortunately, the cap gun didn’t work during either scenario. Even though the cap gun didn’t work, the scenarios went well as Konyak obeyed commands, had good bites, and continued to work until returned to the car. The next part of training was having Konyak search vehicles (13 total) that may or may not have had drugs in them (we planted some training drugs in a few cars). Again, Konyak did a great job at thoroughly searching all vehicles and finding the drugs in the vehicles that we had planted them in. Ranger Little explained that after searching a few cars in a row, some dogs may get tired or not search the car thoroughly, but Konyak showed no signs of this at all which is a great sign. As a treat for every find (of drugs) we would throw his ball for him so that he knows he did well.  The final part of training was using my car that we had let drugs sit in (to create smell for Konyak) and practice a car stop as if it were happening on the streets to see if Konyak would hit on the drugs. On this training, he had a bit of a harder time alerting to the drugs, due to a possible number of factors, but that is why K9 handlers and programs stress train, train, train. After cleaning up and restoring all the cars and securing the drugs, it was now time for us to hit the road for the rest of our night shift, along with Ranger Summerlin, Cole, and Schreck.

During the night we only had one incident that we had responded to and one traffic stop that was new for me. The first incident was called into our dispatch center EMROCC, and then relayed to us, a report of juveniles shooting off fireworks on the promenade and the lawn. Upon arrival on the scene, Ranger Little and I did not spot the group immediately but began to patrol and walk the area. Upon making contact with some visitors confirming the report, Ranger Little came up with a plan to box them in when Rangers Schreck, Cole, and Summerlin got on scene. Upon their arrival, the plan worked, as we were able to search and talk to all of the juveniles in the area, with some giving us some attitude but eventually complying to Ranger Littles commands. No fireworks were found, so the group was asked to disperse and not use fireworks on park grounds.

Picture of the entire rifle and assebly broken down. 
After the incident and doing a few traffic stops after, our final traffic stop of the night escalated very quickly. The escalation factor was new for me as it hadn’t happened to this point during my time here at HOSP and in the law enforcement field. Ranger Little and I observed a car with its driver side headlight out (thought it was a motorcycle at first) and speeding, so we initiated a traffic stop. Upon pulling the car over, I ran the car through our dispatchers as Ranger Little approached the car to make contact with the occupants and get all the documents he needed from them. During this process, Ranger Summerlin and Cole came to assist us and parked behind our vehicle.  Ranger Little returned to the car and ran the occupants of the vehicle through dispatch, which is when at this point things escalated. The driver came back on parole with a search waiver (meaning we are allowed to search the car). Dispatch told us “0” for the passenger, which later on Ranger Little and myself found out that meant to wait for “traffic” (information on the victim). Next, our dispatch told Ranger Little to call them on their cell phone which according to Ranger Summerlin was a “rare” occurrence.  After calling and hanging up with dispatch, Ranger Little informed us that they told him that the passenger was armed and dangerous and had warrants issued for out of the county, with pick up only within a certain mileage of the county which we were too far from. After hearing this, all our senses went up, as all three of the rangers approached the car to remove both occupants out of the car and make sure the scene was safe and that they didn’t have any weapons or such. Upon removing them, themselves and the car were searched, with both occupants having no weapons. We did find a small bag with marijuana residue in the car that belonged to the passenger. In the end, there was a written citation issued for the marijuana, then they were free to go, as that would end Ranger Little and my selves work week, as now it was time to enjoy the weekend!

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