SPRINGDALE — Nomos spent his shift Wednesday night pacing and barking and panting and drooling.
“He’s ready to go to work. He wants to go to work,” explained his handler, Cpl. Morris Irvin.
Benton County Sheriffâs Department
Dogs: 4, plus 1 strictly for narcotics in jail (Purchased last week and in training.)
2017 deployments: 118 narcotics sniffs; 20 tracks; 7 building searches; 2 apprehensions
Bentonville Police Department
Fayetteville Police Department
Deployments: Department doesnât track
Rogers Police Department
Dogs: 4 patrol, plus 1 undercover
Deployments: Department doesnât track.
Bites: None in the last two years.
Springdale Police Department
Deployments in 2017: 106 with one dog
Deployments in 2018: 230 with two dogs; expect 300 by yearâs end
University of Arkansas Police Department
Dogs: 3 trained to detect explosives, plus 1 for narcotics
Local calls in 2018: 4; also conduct inspections before large events and visitors of importance
Washington County Sheriffâs Department
Source: Staff report
Video of Cpl. Morris Irvin and dog Nomos can be seen youtube.com/watch?v=psbhMyx5UkU.
The two most common breeds of dogs chosen for police work are German shepherds and Belgian Malinois, according to the website of the National Police Dog Association.
German shepherds, bred for their intelligence, learn and interpret better than other dog breeds. They show a willingness to learn and a curiosity that makes them perfect for search missions, the website reads.
Belgian Malinois are known for being active, friendly and hard working. One of the most energetic dog breeds, they are easy to train because of their high prey drive.
Source: Staff report
Nomos is a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, and Irvin is his partner with the Springdale Police Department.
“He’s never sat or laid down back there since I’ve had him,” Irvin said of the dog in the back of his patrol SUV.
Nomos is one of three dogs serving the Springdale Police Department, one on each shift, said Sgt. Robert Sanchez, the officer in charge of the police dog program. Oliver, a German shepherd, works with officer Ashley Booth, and the department’s newest dog, Rizo, also a German shepherd, partners with officer David Reed, also new to the canine corps.
The Springdale department has been working with police dogs since the 1970s, Sanchez said.
Rizo replaces Boscoe, a 7-year-old German shepherd the department retired over the summer. Boscoe had a degenerative disease in his spine that is common in the breed, Sanchez said. Officials expected two to three more years of service from the dog.
The City Council approved earlier this month the $12,500 purchase of Rizo, spending money the department receives when property or money are seized in drug convictions. The purchase price also included training for Reed.
“They pay for themselves considering the amount of drug and vehicle seizures they make,” said Sgt. Jake Franklin, a former handler.
The department buys dogs from Von Klein Stein Working Dogs in Sherwood, said Chief Mike Peters. The company imports and trains puppies from Europe bred for police work.
“Their genetics led us to believe these dogs will be a success and have the ability,” Sanchez said. “We can’t put the time and money into a dog out of the pound and hope we can turn him into a dog that has the ability.”
Reed said Springdale’s “patrol dogs” track and locate suspects, find items a suspect might have dropped and sniff out narcotics.
“I call him a ‘finding tool,'” Irvin said of Nomos.
Reed and Rizo helped flush four suspects Oct. 12 after two officers were hit as suspects fled in a stolen car. Officers working the scene before the arrival of the dog “contaminated” the search area by their own movements.
“But he knew which person to track,” Sanchez said. Handlers think people might give off an odor with adrenaline and fear that the dog can smell, he said.
Nomos got his chance Wednesday afternoon on a search for a gun thought to be used that morning in an alleged carjacking. Officers had the suspect in custody, but the gun was not with him.
Irvin and Nomos set off across an overgrown, weedy field in Elm Springs to a creek. Irvin used a 33-foot leash and tucked it under one of Nomos’ front legs. That pulled his nose more deeply into the grass to detect the scent so he stayed focused, Irvin said.
Nomos traveled in a serpentine pattern, moving to where he almost couldn’t smell the suspect, then moving back to where the scent was stronger, Irvin said.
“He’s smelling for something that’s different, that doesn’t belong there,” Irvin went on. For example, a broken blade of grass gives off a different scent than an unbroken one, he said.
Irvin noted Nomos found the fleeing suspect’s driver’s license in another case. This allowed the officers to call off a dangerous search at night. Instead, they later went to the suspect’s home and arrested him.
Back at the creek, Springdale officers saw a shoe print in the mud, took a picture of the print and texted it to the jail. Jailers compared the print to the shoes they took from the suspect, and they were a match.
“That’s when we knew for sure that we were on the right track,” Irvin said.
Police did not find the gun, thinking the suspect dumped it in a place of deep water in the creek, but they will continue the search with other equipment, Irwin said. Officials don’t want someone — like a kid — coming across the gun and hurting themselves or others, he added.
Larger law enforcement agencies in Northwest Arkansas operate dog-handler programs and assist each other and communities that don’t, Reed said. They also train together every Tuesday, visiting areas throughout the region with various landscapes to work on different skills.
During his shift Wednesday, Irvin took Nomos back to the police station mechanic’s garage for a demonstration and another training of his drug sniffing skills. Irvin hid some methamphetamine seized locally under the seat of an all-terrain vehicle, but waited about 15 minutes before bringing the dog in for the search.
Irvin explained he wanted the odor to “bloom,” to spread, broadening the area to be searched. He said he also likes to train in the garage, so the dog must find the drugs amid the smell of grease, paint and even tire rubber.
Nomos received the command to search, “Voraus” (a Czech word), and worked away from the meth. He quickly changed direction, ran to the vehicle and sat down by the seat. Irvin tried to pull him off, show him different areas of the vehicle to search, but Nomos always returned to his spot.
“I want him to get as close to the object as he can,” Irvin said.
Nomos was rewarded with a toy and a game of tug of war with Irvin. “It’s no fun to play alone,” he noted.
Then Irvin took the dog and the toy outside for a demonstration of his jumping abilities. Nomos can jump onto the roof of a house with a boost from his handler, he said.
Springdale outfits its dogs with bullet-resistant vests, weather protection and booties to prevent burned paws on hot sidewalks.
The canine patrol cars also are equipped with heat sensors. If the temperature in the car gets too high, an alarm sounds, the lights flash, the windows open, and the air conditioner turns on to alert the handler and cool the dog, Reed said.
Sanchez said police officials do not consider these dogs aggressive. Springdale’s three dogs have recorded no bites in the time they’ve been on patrol. A check with other area departments returned similar results.
“I would not call any of them mean,” Sanchez said. “They are extremely active dogs and have a huge prey drive. Everything they do is from drive, not anger. It’s a big game to them.”
The dogs are rewarded with petting, exuberant calls of “Good boy” and toys, he said. Officers use only “positive response” to train and reward.
But when the dogs are wanting to work, when their energy is elevated, a quick movement might make one snap, Sanchez said.
“They are working dogs,” Sanchez continued. “They’ve got a job and a purpose. When they’re on duty, you shouldn’t pet them as a friend.”
“Rizo’s got a good disposition. But I typically don’t let the kids pet him, because you never know,” Reed said. “He’s not a pet.”
Irvin said a large part of his job involves education and making connections in the community. He and Nomos work as Partners in Education with Smith Elementary.
Principal Kim Simco said Irwin and Nomos come to the school’s “Be Kind to Animals” week every year. The pair taught the students about community, Simco said. The students learned one year that Xato, Irvin’s previous dog, did not have a bullet-resistant vest. They collected money and bought the dog a vest, she said.
“They’re a big hit with the public. Everyone knows the dogs,” Peters said. “They’re a huge tool.”
NW News on 10/29/2018