CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio (WCMH)–U.S. Route 23 is known by police agencies as a drug pipeline. Basically, from Florida through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, to Michigan, the freeway is a backroad. The road runs through Pickaway County, where the sheriff’s office waits for them.
The office uses a number of tactics to stop drugs. Informants, traffic patrols, and K-9 units. The dogs can cost as much as $20,000.
“They are an investment, they’re a tool and a family member,” said Sheriff Robert Radcliff. “The money that we buy the dogs with, most of the time, the money comes from drug forfeitures.”
When the agency arrests drug offenders, they often seize cash because the suspect was dealing.
Currently, there are five dogs assigned at the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office. Two of them work exclusively in the four school districts. Mikey works with the DARE officer and specializes in explosive materials. Kahn specializes in sniffing out narcotics and works with the Teays Valley school resource officer.
“The other three dogs are the complete package,” said Sheriff Radcliff.
Those three work the streets and are trained to detect illegal drugs and track suspects and items they may have dropped while running for the police.
The office has sent numerous information releases to media outlets in 2020. They have been utilized for traffic stops in the county and helped other agencies long the U.S. 23 pipeline to stop drugs.
“Being attached to the task force, we can go to any agency that requests us around here,” said Corporal Stephen Harger. “Our sheriff is really big on mutual aid and helping other agencies out.”
The dogs’ productivity comes from the relationship with their handlers.
“We have to establish ourselves as part of the pack,” said Deputy Rob Morningstar, a K-9 handler. “Everything we do they want to be apart of.”
According to Radcliff, the handlers are handpicked. While he would not give specific criteria, he mentioned that the handler’s lifestyle, success without a dog, and attitude were important when pairing them with K-9s.
“These dogs and their handlers have a true bond beyond a bond,” said the Sheriff.
In order to connect the partners together, the team is constantly training together. Regardless of whether the two are working or at home with the family, the handler constantly works with the dog.
“We spend more time with the dogs, unfortunately, than we do our own families because we have to develop that bond and it has to be consistent,” said Morningstar.
“My dog knows the difference between my personal vehicle starting and my cruiser starting,” said Harger. “When we make a just a traffic stop, those dogs are glued to us when we get out of that car.”
The bonding between the deputies and the animals spread to the entire office.
“We have a lot of dog lovers here at the office,” said Radcliff.
When one of the K-9s died earlier in the year, the deputy wants his former partner buried on the grounds of the Sheriff’s Office.
“So we thought we needed to do something,” said the sheriff.
The goal was to create a monument showcasing the respect the agency has for the work and lives of the animals. The entire staff began hosting fundraisers like dog washes, selling cookbooks, in order to raise the money.
Today, there is a circular garden with a gravel path leading straight to the K-9 Joris statue. Behind his likeness are the words: courage, loyalty, service, and honor.
The Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office takes the drug fight seriously. More importantly, they take care of the investment, tools, and family who help keep the community safe. The canines.
NOTE: DO NOT approach any service animal while they are working. Whether the animal is on a mission with the police or working with a person with disabilities, always ask the animal’s handler if you may interact with the animal.