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Sheriff's Office plans to send a dog to jail

The Washington County Detention Center’s newest weapon in the war against drugs will have four legs and a nose for narcotics.
“I want to be able to post a ‘Drug Dog on Duty’ sign in the jail,” said Sheriff Ed Graybeal. “The intimidation factor alone will be a deterrent.”
Graybeal’s request to transfer funds from the account containing proceeds from drug busts for the purchase and training of a K9 officer was approved during the May 11 meeting of the Washington County Budget Committee, and will be voted on by the full commission later this month.
Drug smuggling by inmates and visitors is a growing problem for the jail, despite having one of the tightest security systems in place, Graybeal said.
“It’s hard to get stuff in here,” Graybeal said, adding the agency can never underestimate creative attempts. “We had an inmate who received a roll of stamps that contained liquid methamphetamine on the backs,” he said.
While tobacco is most popular to sneak in, more serious drugs are often ground into powder and taped between the pages of letters or sewn into the seams of linens.
Teams of drug dogs are not uncommon in state and federal prisons, but Washington County may be one of the first to add a K9 officer to a county jail staff.
In addition to identifying drugs, the dog will be trained to detect cell phones, electronics and weapons.
Graybeal says the addition of a K9 will strengthen the team already in place.
“There’s not much that goes on in here that the officers on duty can’t handle,” he said. “We just look at this as another tool.”
In addition to searches of individuals and in cells, the K9 will be utilized by the Special Operations Response Team, which is called in for cell extractions, shakedowns, riots, inmate fights, and in the case of having an officer down.
Lt. Perry Allen is commander of the SORT officers, who serve as the jail’s SWAT team.
Allen proposed the idea of a drug dog for the jail and volunteered to complete the intensive six-week training necessary to be its handler.
“I have to give the credit to Sheriff Graybeal for being open-minded, setting a precedent,” he said. “I can’t wait to get started.”
Though an animal lover, Allen has never worked with police K9s.
“The dog is going to be training me at first, but we will be a team,” he said.
Allen celebrated his 13th year with the Sheriff’s Office on May 12.
“I love working in the jail,” he said. “I’ve had the chance to go on patrol, but I turned it down.”
Allen supervises 18 officers who are in charge of up to 600 inmates at any time. He believes a K9 officer will save taxpayers money in the long run by keeping inmates healthier while in jail and preventing drug smuggling.
“A drug dog is one of the biggest bangs for the buck in fighting drugs,” he said. “And what could be better than fighting drugs with drug money?”
A transfer of $12,440 was requested from the Drug Fund, with $6,800 designated for the purchase of the dog. The remainder will be used for travel and training.
The dog will be purchased from Ventosa Kennel in Scotland Neck, N.C., the nation’s largest police K9 training facility. Ventosa Kennel provides police K9 training and certification including patrol, narcotics detection, explosive detection, wildlife enforcement detection, and police tracking.
Graybeal said K9s working in a jail receive different training than those on the road.
“A jail is a society in itself, and this dog will need to react appropriately in an environment where there is constant stimulation,” he said.
If approved by the commission, Graybeal plans to get the dog as quickly as possible, with the hope of starting training in July.