K-9s train for narcotics and bombs in Terrace Hall

Ben Breier

Tim Christopher of Garrettsville Police, left, and Jim Ennemoser of Kent Police, right, reward Christopher’s narcotics dog, Quando, after he hit on a spot where drugs were hidden. The group was practicing searches in Terrace Hall yesterday. AMANDA SOWARD

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Boomer, a 5-year-old German Shepherd, was inspecting couches, chairs and various other objects in a vacant Terrace Hall lounge. After five minutes, the dog found what he was looking for – a stash of C4 plastic explosive, hidden in a Plain Dealer newspaper distribution box.

Lt. John Betori, an officer at the University of Toledo Police Department, rewarded his dog by throwing him an old, ratty towel for him to play with.

It was only a drill this time, as various K-9 units from around Ohio converged at Kent State to take their dogs through narcotic and bomb maintenance training.

Martin Gilliland, K-9 administrator for the Kent Police Department, was on-hand for the training exercise. According to Gilliland, this is the first time the exercise has been performed in Terrace Hall.

“We picked Terrace Hall because it was vacant,” Gilliland said. “We used to perform similar activities in Stopher Hall.”

Gilliland said vacant houses in Kent and impound lots were also utilized for training purposes.

In addition to the plastic explosives, several drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines, were hidden in the unused dormitory. The drugs being used for the exercise were all confiscated from past cases.

“The amounts range drastically,” Gilliland said. “There could be one gram of marijuana hidden under a couch, or 65 pounds hidden in a wall somewhere.”

He said using different quantities of drugs is key to developing the dog’s ability to detect narcotics.

“If you constantly concentrate on a small amount of dope, a dog’s scent threshold will be limited to that amount of odor,” Gilliland said.

Officers Jim Ennemoser of Kent and Tim Christopher of Garrettsville guided Jessy, the only female dog present at the training session, on a drug hunt through the second floor of Terrace Hall.

When the dog entered room 2101, she started to aggressively dig at a dresser in the room after a brief period of exploration. Hidden in the drawer was 2.2 pounds of cocaine.

Christopher said officers are careful about letting the dogs actually see the drugs.

“You never show drugs to a dog because they can get into them,” Christopher said. “They can overdose on them just like a human.”

When Betori’s dog Boomer found the plastic explosives in the Plain Dealer distribution box, he had a very different reaction – instead of attacking the source of the scent, Boomer simply sat down right by the container.

Gilliland said this is because bomb dogs are trained to be passive, as you don’t want dogs scratching at something that could possibly explode.

Betori made a note of the fact the Kent State Police Department does not have any trained K-9s at its disposal.

“Any jurisdiction would be helped by having K-9 units,” he said.

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Ben Breier at [email protected].