K9 Officer Ashley Wood and K9 Auda
With illicit drug activity linked to so many violent offenses and property crimes, the battle to take illegal drugs and those who deal in them off the streets is a high priority for the Roswell Police Department. Playing a big role in that effort is the department’s K9 Unit that was re-established in May 2020.
The four drug-detecting dogs and their handlers have made a significant impact in taking drugs off Roswell’s streets, which helps reduce overall crime and makes the community a safer place for its residents and visitors.
“The major problem in this town in the drug use,” says K9 Officer Ashley Wood. “Drug use leads to burglaries, thefts and violent crimes against people. If we are able to clean the streets up, I believe is will help with the crime rate.”
Wood spends her shifts working with her K9 partner Auda, a female German Shepherd. Joining Wood and Auda in the K9 Unit are K9 Officer Skye Wentland and K9 Kazan (a male German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix), K9 Officer Cody Schwartz and K9 Tesla (a female Belgian Malinois) and K9 Sgt. Jeff Prince and K9 Tauron (a male Belgian Malinois). Lt. Chris Bradley oversees the unit as K9 coordinator. Each of these personnel were already members of RPD before they chose to become part of the K9 Unit.
K9 Officer Skye Wentland and K9 Kazan
The K9s use their special skills when requested by any patrol officers or narcotics agents. A traffic stop may lead to an officer having suspicions about drugs possibly being hidden in a vehicle so a K9 and handler may be called to the scene. Members of the K9 Unit may also work with narcotics agents as they execute a search warrant on a house or other property. The K9s’ highly-sensitive sense of smell can detect the odor of narcotics on a variety of objects, with some of the more common items dealt with being vehicles, buildings, packages and luggage. The K9s and their handlers work regular patrol shifts, carrying out the usual duties of a police officer, but are also on an on-call schedule that makes the specialized unit available 24/7.
Dogs such as those in RPD’s K9 Unit are imported from Europe, where they receive initial training before coming to the United States. RPD acquired its dogs from a facility in Texas, where the handlers go to get paired with their K9 partner and train together before beginning their duty in Roswell.
K9 Officer Cody Schwartz and K9 Tesla
Before meeting a handler, the dogs are trained for a year to develop obedience to a handler, narcotics detection, and tracking, which enables them to assist in finding missing people or criminal suspects. The handler then arrives at the training facility, goes through the first couple days of training with a few dogs to determine a good match with the right K9, and then trains with the selected K9 for three weeks. Each dog is chosen based on the handler’s preference and the bond they establish.
A handler must manage the daily responsibilities of being a patrol officer and making sure his or her dog is properly cared for, while also meeting all the required training hours per month. A police dog becomes not only a K9 officer’s trusted partner in law enforcement, but also part of the family.
K9 Officer Wood says Auda “likes to lay on the couch,” but they also “often go to the park so she can be a dog. Everyone needs a break from work, including the dog. Our bond has gotten much stronger in the past year and we build on that every day.”
That positive relationship impact of the department’s four-legged members can reach to other RPD officers, as well.
“The dogs are also a great companion for other officers,” Wood says. “If (certain officers) are having a bad day at work, a little bit of puppy love can help cheer them up.”
K9 Sgt. Jeff Prince and K9 Tauron
From approximately the late 1990s to the late 2000s, RPD had K9s at various times, including two narcotics-detection dogs that were eventually retired. Two other dogs were used primarily for tracking and detaining fleeing suspects. Those dogs were also retired following their service in the department.
The re-establishment of the K9 Unit was made possible thanks to the generous financial support of the Roswell community. That support is the funding foundation for the K9 program. In early 2020, organizations and individuals contributed the start-up costs to purchase the first two dogs, get the handlers trained with their dogs and make modifications to the handlers’ police vehicles to accommodate the K9s. Since then, ongoing support has enabled the unit to add two more dogs and handlers and help provide the dogs’ food and veterinarian care.
Visit the RPD K9 Unit webpage