Police K-9’s put to the test at training in Eureka

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EUREKA, MO (KTVI) - More than 100 law enforcement officers were dispatched to Eureka for a special assignment.

“A couple young ladies came through,” Rick Ashabranner, a retired officer, said. “They said, ‘What it G-d’s name is going on in Eureka? I’ve never seen so many police cars.’”

The officers arrived on foot. Some arrived on four feet.

"Police dogs are capable of doing a lot of things that we can't do,” Ashabranner said. Ashabraner is the president of the North American Police Work Dog Association. NAPWDA recently held a week-long K-9 training event in Eureka.

More than 100 working police dogs from the bi-state area attended to be tested in a variety of fields, including building searches, narcotics detection, and tracking and trailing.

Bart is a 5 ½ year old German Shepherd. His master handler, Sgt. James Simonpietri of the Woodson Terrace Police Department, tested Bart’s ability to locate drugs hidden in a vehicle.

Bart circled the vehicle and sat near the hood, alerting his owner of the presence of drugs.

A dog’s ability to detect drugs serves a key purpose for law enforcement.

“The major ones that we see on the street – which is marijuana, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine,” Eureka Police Officer Michael Werges said.

Werges said the overall benefit of the K-9’s is simple.

“If bad guys do bad things, then police dogs come and they try to help us catch them.”

K-9’s of various breeds and sizes can be found at Lambert St. Louis International Airport, Busch Stadium, and Metro transit.

And just as Bart was ready to accept his “play ball” as a reward, he was ready to be the aggressor at a moment’s notice.

A decoy exercise demonstrated his sense of strength and speed. Bart weighs about 90 pounds, and is capable of bringing down a 200-pound man without any problems.

When confronted by a police canine, most suspects will surrender, Werges said.

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