Ellis County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Mike McCorkle and Deputy Klinton Valley spoke with students at Dunaway Elementary on Wednesday afternoon about the role canines play in law enforcement and the importance of making good choices.

Valley told the students that before you become a police officer you have to go through a training course to learn how to do their job. The moment was part of Dunaway's Red Ribbon Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of drugs and the importance of a drug free life.

“The police academy is about three months long and we are learning what to do to be a police officer. We are learning how to make arrests, state laws and federal laws, so we can come out on the streets to enforce those laws,” Valley said. “Once you get done with the academy, you get hired on by an agency. When you get to where you are going to work, you are going to have a field-training officer. In field training, you are wearing the uniform and doing the duties of an officer, but you have a senior officer with you who is teaching you. Once you get done after that three months of training, they let you go out by your self.”

Valley said after serving as a police officer for a while he enjoyed keeping the community safe by taking dangerous drugs off the streets, but was looking for something a little bit different in the law enforcement field. Shortly after, he became a member of the sheriff’s office canine unit.

Valley told students he and his partner Blade, who is a German Shepard, had to go through an extensive three-month training course as well. The course not only helped the partners learn their job, but it also helped form a trust between them.

“We train our dogs to listen to us and not to worry about the other stuff that is going on. We have a trust with each other and when they hear those things, it does not scare them,” Valley said. “That is part of the process in picking these dogs is to get a dog that is not afraid. We need dogs that are pretty fearless because we ask them to do a pretty specific job.”

Valley told students that while the canines are trained for a specific task, they are still shown love, but they can’t do everything regular people do with their pets.

“They are trained for a specific job, so we won’t necessarily treat them like they are just a pet in the backyard. But we do love and show them affection just as you would to your dog, too. That dog needs to know that you love and care for him, too,” Valley said.

Valley added the canines do go home with them after a shift at the sheriff’s office is complete everyday.

He also said law enforcement agencies uses canines for many different tasks, including checking for bombs, tracking people, search and rescue operations and finding contraband items in jails. Blade is one of two canines at the sheriff’s office and is trained in narcotics detection and as a patrol service dog.

The second canine at the sheriff’s office is Riko, who works with McCorkle. Riko is not only trained to locate a person, but detect four different odors related to narcotics. The canine alerts the handler to the presence of narcotics by sitting or lying down.

“We have a facility where we built some obstacles and the dogs are required to jump up and craw under. We have boxes where we have guys hide in them and the dogs have to find them,” McCorkle said. “Then every year these dogs have to go before a panel of judges that they are still capable of being a police dog. Every year we certify them. These canines have to demonstrate that they have to be able to smell drugs, can track an individual, find articles of evidence that are hidden out in the grass or the woods. They have to do that every year.”

McCorkle said a canine sense of smell is far superior than a human's. They have an old factory system that is much more sensitive than humans. Canines can also hear sounds at a greater distance. The way the dog's ears are shaped and how they rotate help them with their hearing, McCorkle said.

During their time with the students, Valley and McCorkle encouraged them to live a drug free life. Valley told students that the choices they make now can affect their future.

“As a police officer, we come into contact with people who do drugs. What happens to those people? They go to jail. It is not a good place to go, I promise you,” Valley said. “ I have seen the jail several times because we go there quite often. I am telling you it is not a place that you want to go.”

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