New VPD officer attacks job with enthusiasm

Published 12:12 am Wednesday, December 31, 2008

VIDALIA — The newest officer on the Vidalia police force made two arrests his first day on the job Monday.

But at 3 feet tall and 83.5 pounds, it might be easy to overlook him — at least until he growls.

Ben, a black and brown Dutch Shepherd, is the VPD’s newest K-9 officer.

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The department acquired Ben from another law enforcement agency in mid-September, and since then he and his handler, officer Jamie Lipscomb, have been training at the Alpha K-9 training center in Jackson.

“We mainly focused on narcotics detecting, tracking, bite work and some aggression management,” Lipscomb said.

While some drug dogs are friendly, they are usually single-purpose dogs that are only used to detect drugs.

Ben, however, is a dual-purpose dog, used for more than just drug detection.

“He is a high-strung, protective dog,” Lipscomb said. “His job is to protect me, and he is my No. 1 partner.”

As part of the training, Lipscomb and Ben were taken to an interstate bypass on I-55 to detect drugs.

“They took us there to put us in a new environment we are not used to so we could learn to put off distractions and get straight to duty,” Lipscomb said. “It sounds like a train under there.”

Ben will display several signs when he is “in odor” — when he detects drugs.

“His behavior changes, he changes attitude and he will be aggressive,” Lipscomb said.

The K-9 training wasn’t really for Ben, Lipscomb said.

“Ben is a top-notch dog,” Lipscomb said. “He has been through the school a couple of times, and he has excelled in his class every time. The training was more for me.”

Ben’s main duties will be narcotics detection and crime prevention.

The difference is that Lipscomb and Ben don’t keep a routine shift like other officers.

“Some criminals can tell you what officer is working what shift and where,” Hendricks said. “This is designed to throw that off.”

Keeping an odd schedule might bother some animals, but Ben likes to do his job.

“He is always ready, and he is very intimidating,” Hendricks said.

The Vidalia police have retired the old drug dog, Max, but Hendricks said because Max was given to the department through a grant they are looking to donate him to another law enforcement agency.