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Old January 5th, 2004, 03:42 PM
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Dogs put DPS on right scent

Dogs put DPS on right scent

By LARRY HENDRICKS
Sun Staff Reporter

Barry is another tool in the arsenal of the Arizona Department of Public Safety when searching for illegal drugs being transported on the highways running through Coconino County.
No matter what drug runners do to try to hide the drugs being transported across the country, Barry will sniff it out.

Literally.

Barry is a dog, a Belgian Malinois to be precise. He's an edgy kind of dog, constantly moving -- what his handler calls a "high play, high prey" value.

Officer Casey Kasun of the DPS K-9 division is his handler. Kasun has eight years with DPS and he is an instructor in K-9 training. Has made more than 100 major drug seizures on the highways in the area.

"They're your second-best tool," Kasun said during a training class for DPS officers held Monday. Dogs can only smell drugs; they can't replace an officer looking for specific indicators of criminal activity. The dogs just confirm a suspicion.

Dogs are so good because they use 90 percent of their olfactory potential, which is about 1 million times better than humans, Kasun told the class.

He gave an analogy: Humans can smell a bowl of chili. Dogs can smell every single ingredient that went into making the chili -- even which ingredient has the strongest smell.

Kasun explained to the class that case law has defined a K-9 sniff to not constitute a search of a vehicle that requires probable cause or consent. If a vehicle is in a public place and an officer has a right to be there, the officer can have a dog sniff the vehicle -- even in the parking lot of a market.

K-9s should never be used by officers as a threat for a consent search, Kasun said.

Barry showed his handiwork Monday afternoon at the DPS impound lot on Kaibab Lane.

Officer Jon Olney, put small samples of cocaine and methamphetamine in two vehicles in the yard. The cocaine was put behind the front bumper of a silver passenger car, and the meth was put under the hood of a semi tractor through the wheel well.

Olney also touched the front of another car with a hand he used to place the drugs.

"He might smell a couple different things, but he'll be looking for the strongest odors," Olney said.

Kasun came out into the yard with Barry.

Barry, once at the semi, began to change. His manner went from exited to very excited. He was focused, searching the side of the semi on the opposite side from where the drugs were placed.

The wind was blowing that way, Olney said. Barry went by the drugs twice. He began scratching at the semi front.

Kasun moved on to the car whose bumper Olney had touched with his hand. Barry's manner changed once again at the front of the car, and he even scratched the exact spot where Olney had touched.

Moving on to the silver car, Barry scratched incessantly on the front bumper until Kasun appeared satisfied that Barry had located drugs through an "alert." Kasun gave Barry a toy in praise, then reached under the bumper and pulled out the cocaine.

The duo went back to the semi. Barry once again focused on the front.

"There's something here," Kasun said.

Suddenly, Barry slipped under the front of the semi and up into wheel well. He dragged the meth out himself. He received the toy in praise again.

Other K-9s were at the yard that day. Kasun said the recent seizure of 86 pounds of marijuana on Interstate 17 would prove a valuable training opportunity. The marijuana, which was packed in multiple layers of plastic interspersed with clothes dryer freshener sheets, were put back into the Toyota from which it was seized. Two dogs were brought out to take a crack at the car.

Each, in turn, alerted on the trunk of the Toyota.

DPS K-9 dogs have proved they can smell drugs through anything. In the past, dogs have smelled cocaine that was welded into gas tanks filled with gas, they have smelled marijuana packed in axle grease, and they can smell marijuana covered in clothes dryer sheets.
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