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Natchez Police Department welcomes new recruit

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Police Department met their newest recruited officer recently, and he stands on four legs.

K-9 Toon, a 3-year-old dual-purpose Belgian Malinois, and his partner Stanley Starks graduated from the USK9 unlimited Dog training Academy in Abbeville, Louisiana on March 27 and they are the newest members of Natchez police force, said Walter Armstrong, Natchez police chief.

Armstrong said an Arkansas couple donated approximately $16,300 for the K-9 after they learned about the department’s need during the Super Retriever Series Crown Championship — a competitive event for various dog breeds that took place on the Natchez bluff in September.

About a month before the event, the department lost their only K-9, Arko, who died with cancer at the age of 14, and the department was without a K-9 until Toon and Starks completed their training, Armstrong said.

“We’ve had several needs for a K-9 in the absence of Arko, and we are certainly grateful to the family in Arkansas and to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen for allowing us to purchase this dog,” Armstrong said.

Starks handpicked K-9 officer Toon to be his partner in January prior to either of them being trained, Armstrong said, adding once Toon had received his own training he and Starks trained together for five weeks at the academy starting Feb. 24. Together they had to master basic handling, tracking and drug detection skills and Toon led his class in obeying attack and call off commands, Armstrong said.

“I selected Officer Starks as our K-9 handler because of his 13 years of experience with handling K-9’s and because of his previous work with Barsa Consulate in Iraq, where he served as an explosive detection dog handler from 2012 to 2019. It is my belief that Officer Stanley Starks and K-9 Toon will be valuable assets to this city in fighting crime and apprehending criminals,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said Starks and Toon are currently assigned to work a night shift and are utilizing one of the department’s patrol cars to transport the dog for the time being.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen had previously allocated funds for an SUV that would be more suitable for carrying a dog, Armstrong said, adding that purchasing the vehicle is put on hold until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

Armstrong said community members have also started fundraising for a second K-9 that could work during a day shift and had raised up to $5,200.

Donations for a K-9 can be dropped off or mailed to the Natchez Police Department at 233 D’Evereux Drive, Armstrong said.