CCSD Deputy, K-9 unit earn recognition

By Abby Morris
star staff

   Two officers with the Carter County Sheriff's Department were recently recognized by the U. S. Police Canine Association. Deputy Sarah Ryan and her K-9 unit Sgt. Kabor were awarded the Detection Case of the Quarter and the Patrol Case of the Quarter for the last quarter of 2002.
   Kabor, a Belgian Malinois, is versatile in the role he plays with the sheriff's department, according to Ryan. "Kabor is a dual purpose dog," she said. "He is a certified detector dog and a certified patrol dog." The two officers go through a re-certification process twice a year.
   According to Ryan, there are many types of detection dogs, such as those that look for explosives, cadavers and ones like Kabor that detect narcotics.
   In the case for which Ryan and Kabor won the detection case award, the two found illegal contraband in a vehicle following a traffic stop.
   "During the traffic stop I asked the driver if he had any narcotics, weapons, or illegal contraband in the car and he said that he didn't," Ryan said. "At that time, I noticed that the passenger may have been concealing something, and it turned out to be a beer." Ryan said she then asked the passenger to step out of the vehicle and, after searching him, she found "a marijuana bong" on his person.
   Ryan then asked the driver again if there were any illegal items in the car. He responded "no" and gave her permission to search the vehicle.
   "I deployed Kabor and let him do a canine sniff around the car and he alerted on the search," she said, adding that he also alerted to a few areas inside the vehicle. A search of the vehicle turned up a loaded .45 caliber hand gun, four baggies each of one half gram of cocaine, a baggie containing one half gram of methamphetamine, two small baggies containing methamphetamine residue, 60 tablets of Valium and a small baggie of marijuana.
   The two also tracked down a suspect who was observed by other officers fleeing the scene of a potential burglary in progress. Ryan said that as they were in route to the scene of the break-in, officers were advised to be on the look out for a vehicle that was described by neighbors as having been in the vicinity of the burglary.
   Ryan and another officer located the car at a gas station and were interviewing the subjects in the car when it was reported over the radio that shots had been fired at the site of the burglary and two male subjects were seen fleeing. Officers on the scene apprehended one of the two subjects and the other fled into the woods.
   At that time, Ryan responded with Kabor. "I deployed Kabor for a man track," she said. After following the scent through the woods, Kabor alerted his handler and the subject was found lying in a creek, where he was apprehended by the dog, according to Ryan.
   To be prepared, Ryan and Kabor both spend a lot of time in training. "We're given an eight-hour training day every month with our dogs," Ryan said. On those training days, Ryan and Kabor join other area handlers and K-9 units.
   The two also train on their own between the monthly sessions. "I would say generally that four or more hours a week you need to be training for either patrol work or detection work," Ryan said. Ryan began training the dog during her off time when he was a puppy. She had him ready for certification when the sheriff's department decided to use him as a K-9 unit.
   The recent recognition for the case work is not the first for this pair. Every year, Ryan and Kabor compete in the USPCA Field Trials. "Last year, we placed sixth over all in apprehension work," Ryan said, adding that they have also won medals in the agility and article search events. "Those seem to be our best three categories."
   In April, the two will compete for the first time in the Iron Dog Triathlon sponsored by the USPCA. The contest is in its fifth year and will be held this year in Roanoke, Va.
   The course is approximately three-and-a-half miles long and consists of agility obstacles for both the handler and the dogs, a portion where the handlers have to carry the dogs, a tactical pistol shoot, and an event where the handler pulls him or herself and the dog across a lake or pond in a boat.
   According to Ryan, the contest is a friendly competition that gives the handlers and dogs a chance to hone their skills and train for a variety of scenarios. "Generally as a K-9 officer, you should be in relatively good shape, especially in this area where the terrain varies so greatly," Ryan said.
   For Ryan, the chance to work with Kabor has been "a life long dream come true," she said. "It's something I've always wanted to do." Ryan got out of the United States Air Force in 1993 and went to work as a jailer in the Carter County Jail. She then went on to work with the Johnson City Police Department for six years before returning to Carter County to become a K-9 handler.
   Ryan's dedication to her job has not gone unnoticed.
   "I'm proud of her and proud of the K-9 unit," said Sheriff John Henson. "I'm glad to have the K-9 unit; it's been very beneficial to us on several occasions. It's good to have someone who's as dedicated to their job as she is."