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Changing drug laws means changing training for police K-9 units


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    KANSAS CITY, Missouri (KCTV, KSMO) — Police departments across the country are looking ahead and making changes when it comes to their K-9 officers, all because drug laws are changing.

Many departments are deciding new dogs should not detect marijuana.

Von Liche Kennels in Denver, Indiana, is a training facility for police dogs. Our team traveled to the facilities to get a look at the training.

Training is expensive. The dogs at Von Liche Kennels come from overseas and, by the time the dogs are ready to go, departments have already invested up to $22,000.

We learned the dogs work to play with a ball. They find the drugs, then they get to play.

“We have methamphetamines, we have heroin, and we have cocaine,” said trainer Kenneth D. Licklider. But, he doesn’t have marijuana.

“It’s just cleaner to not have it,” he said.

Cleaner, because more states are changing their laws and marijuana is now legal in many states.

“Five years ago, there were rumblings about it. Three years ago, it started. Now it’s our police; we don’t put marijuana on until we know,” said Licklider.

Departments where marijuana is illegal can include that training, but it could get messy legally if the dog is working in a state where the law is changed. The question becomes: What did the dog actually detect?

“Defense attorneys are going to tear you apart by saying that [they found] cocaine,” said Licklider. “Yeah, you found cocaine in the car but there was also marijuana, and that’s what your dog was hitting on and that’s legal.”

The Kansas City Police Department is one that fits the new trend.

Their new K-9, Scoop, has been in KC since august and is different from the other police dogs in the department. He’s not trained to detect marijuana.

“It is a big investment,” said Sgt. Bill Brown, who oversees the KCPD’s K-9 program. “It’s a lot of commitment to it in the way things are changing now. As far as the marijuana laws, it makes sense for us to just not imprint on marijuana.”

There will be no excuses with Scoop on a drug case.

“Just because there was a bunch of marijuana there, I can easily sit on the stand and say,’ I never imprinted that dog on marijuana,’” said Sgt. Brown. “’I never trained that dog on marijuana. But, I did train that dog on cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, which was found.”

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office is taking a different approach. Its new K-9 was trained to detect all four drugs and the department says it’s paying off. Csibi, (pronounced Cheebee) recently helped his partner Det. Andrew Ignatenko find drugs and cash totaling $1 million.

We asked other police departments about their dogs. Lenexa has three K-9 officers and all three are trained on methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.

Olathe has five police dogs. Four are dual trained. One is just for drugs. Department spokesman Sgt. Joel Yeldell said they have another dog in training and it will not be certified in marijuana detection.

Overland Park Police have five dogs. Three are dual-purpose dogs, meaning they are trained in narcotics detection (including marijuana) and patrol functions. One is a single-purpose dog trained solely in the detection of explosives. And, they’ve just added a new dog — a comfort dog assigned to the department’s new Crisis Action Team. That union woks with citizens who are having a mental health crisis.

When asked about new trends, Overland Park police told us that K-9s across the country are being trained for all sorts of things such has bed bugs and even being able to detect COVID-19.

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