EPD retires K-9 Sgt. Chase

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   Recently, an officer with the Elizabethton Police Department retired from duty. Those who know him best describe him as a good officer who was very loyal and, according to his partner, he had a good nose.
   Sgt. Chase, one of the EPD's two K-9 units, officially retired on Feb. 17.
   "Due to an apparent heat stroke and his long tenure as a police canine, we don't want anything to jeopardize his health," said EPD Chief Roger Deal. "We felt it best to retire him so he could enjoy life as a civilian with his handler and family."
   Chase's handler, EPD PTL Joey Proffitt, agreed that it was a good decision to retire the dog. "You don't want to work a dog too long," he said. "Eight to eight-and-a-half is a good age to retire a dog." Chase turned eight in November and was just 10 days away from celebrating his seventh anniversary with the police department when he was retired.
   Chase served the department well, said Deal. "Chase and Joey (Proffitt) have been a big asset to the city," he said. "They have been involved in hundreds of tasks, including searches of buildings, apprehensions and drug seizures."
   Chase is a dual-purpose K-9 unit and is trained not only as a patrol dog, but as a narcotics detector as well. He is certified with the United States Police Canine Association in both fields.
   In his history of apprehending subjects with the department, he was only forced to apprehend two of those subjects by biting them, according to Deal. One of those two subjects was an individual wanted for assault with a deadly weapon and the other was a drug dealer who was fleeing apprehension on charges of manufacturing methamphetamine, Deal said.
   Chase and Proffitt have also worked with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation as well as the Federal Bureau of investigation on several occasions according to Deal, as well as with other law enforcement agencies like the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
   "Canines are very beneficial to law enforcement, not only for drug detection but for officer protection," he said. "Canines have a very valuable place in law enforcement. They are another tool just like a side arm or a finger print kit."
   Deal added that he has received several letters of accommodation from other agencies who have utilized Chase and his particular skills.
   Chase has also won several awards for the department both on a regional level and on a national level. In recent years, he placed second in a national competition for outdoors search. "The second place score (which was Chase's) was 99.63 out of 100," Proffitt said. "That tells you how tough the competition was."
   According to Proffitt, who has been Chase's handler since he was a pup, life as a patrol officer has been a little different without his partner in the car with him. "You get used to working with a dog and then suddenly he's retired," he said. "It's not really a lost feeling, but it's a weird feeling."
   The retirement of Chase leaves the police department without a currently active K-9 unit. "We have another K-9 but, unfortunately his handler, Richard Haney, was activated with the 776th," Deal said. "You can't just move a K-9 around from one handler to another. We feel it confuses the dog."
   The department is hoping to replace Chase and has put plans for the funding in this year's budget proposal to the city, Deal said. "To replace a K-9 is extremely expensive," he said, adding that the cost for the department's other K-9, Sgt. Sonja, was approximately $8,500. "If you look at the cost over that many years of service, it's more than reasonable," Deal said. "It's a good return on your investment."
   Proffitt and Deal said one of the important things that keeps the K-9 officers on the force is good veterinary care for the animals. Dr. Richard Jablonski, who owns a veterinary practice in Roan Mountain, provides the department with medical services for the K-9 units free of charge. "He's been very helpful to us," Proffitt said.