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Chasing down the bad guys, sniffing out drugs all in a day's work for Sunnyside K-9 team

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Sunnyside Police Officers Skip Lemmon and Helios give a special presentation at the Sunnyside Kiwanis Club meeting.

Sunnyside K-9 Officer Skip Lemmon and Officer Helios were present for Wednesday morning's Sunnyside Kiwanis Club meeting, giving the members of the club a special presentation.

Lemmon has been working with Helios for approximately a year now and the pair has taken part in drug detection and tracking trainings.

Lemmon told the Kiwanians there are several pieces of equipment he uses for tracking suspects and training Officer Helios.

Equipment includes a tracking harness, bite sleeves, toys and different lengths of leashes.

When using a tracking harness, Lemmon said the goal is not to correct the K-9. The harness is the dog's working gear to which Lemmon attaches the leashes used.

He said the length of the leash used is determined by the environment in which the suspect is being tracked.

For instance, a 15-foot leash was used when the partners tracked a suspect through a cornfield this summer.

Lemmon said Helios pursued the suspect through an environment that would have made determining the suspect's path of travel difficult.

"The cornfield was full of mud," said Lemmon.

He said the pursuit of the suspect traveled through the field to a road after many turns and slogging through the terrain.

Once the dog and his handler caught up to the suspect, the chase didn't last long.

At one point the suspect had removed his shirt and the dog was able to pick up the scent of the suspect with the clothing before proceeding.

"That let us know we were on the right track," said Lemmon.

The suspect was subdued quickly upon being located, throwing his hands up in surrender and collapsing on the spot.

"He (Helios) has yet to bite a suspect because they have all surrendered," said Lemmon.

The bite sleeve is an important tool for training the dog and Lemmon has two. One of the sleeves can be concealed under clothing. The other is more obvious.

"You've got to make sure you put that (the arm wearing the sleeve) out so he bites it instead of something else," he said, gesturing to his leg.

Lemmon said training with a bite sleeve is a reward to Officer Helios.

"It's play time," he said.

"If you scream and holler, he has more fun."

The more an individual fights or makes noise the more excitable the K-9 becomes.

Lemmon was asked if a suspect is better off when he doesn't scream or resist. The answer was, "Yes."

He said using a K-9 in a tracking situation must also be carefully evaluated. There are guidelines like the severity of the crime for which the suspect is being pursued. Also evaluated is the safety of the officers, as well as the safety of the public and whether or not the suspect has a known history of violence. Felonies and assaults are all reasons to use a K-9 in the field.

When tracking a suspect, Lemmon must also announce he has the dog, giving a suspect forewarning of the possible consequences for not surrendering.

Officer Helios is also a trained drug dog. He is rewarded for locating drugs with playtime toys. The toys include a ball or a kong.

The K-9 can detect several different narcotic substances and Lemmon said he has been successful in locating ecstasy during a test of his skills.

Lemmon and Helios have also been called to duty this summer by the LEAD Task Force on numerous occasions.

"We haven't been called to a marijuana grow, yet," said Lemmon.

He told the Kiwanians the community of Sunnyside has been highly supportive of the K-9 program. Citizens, local businesses and veterinarians have donated food, funding, supplies and services.

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