By Alexander Cain
When the Fayetteville Police Department says, “bad guys beware,” they mean it—and they’ve got their four-legged back-ups to prove it.
The K-9 unit of the Fayetteville Police Department has been busy in recent weeks assisting outside cities and nearby counties while still maintaining the daily training and work of its regular duties.
With more work involved than an average citizen may realize, the dedication and the trust between dog and handler keep the K-9 unit fit and functioning each day on the job.
John McNair is a Fayetteville Police Department Task Force Officer and works with a six-year-old German Shepherd named “Max.”
Max and McNair specialize in narcotics, and with Max’s keen sense of smell and McNair at his side, there’s little chance for someone hiding or smuggling drugs to get away from the Fayetteville PD.
“It’s good times,” McNair admitted. “If the drugs come into Georgia, whether they come through Mexico or somewhere else throughout the state, we will go and try to intercept it.”
McNair has had Max for about five years. It wasn’t easy—a sizable portion of the time from introduction to a dog to becoming a handler is spent working directly with an animal to build trust, gain that trust and then use that trust in the field.
“I went through a six-week course for handler certification. You have to learn the dog’s commands. It’s kind of like a partnership,” McNair stated.
McNair isn’t alone in his duties. Officer Jason Scarbarough has been working with seven-year-old “Baco” for about six months, and Officer Jacob Collins has been working with four-year-old “Gizmo” for about four years. Both Belgian Malinois have the same drive and dedication as German Shepherd Max.
“As far as him and me, we are assigned to Patrol Shift. If there is an alarm call, a high-risk traffic stop, wanted individual calls, someone breaking into a building…that’s where we come in,” Collins stated about his duties with Gizmo.
Although the dogs can appear intimidating—especially to a suspect—they are trained to work in a public setting. It is common to find a Fayetteville K-9 handler and dog appearing at elementary schools or public events.
The dogs are trained in a language other than English (usually Dutch or German) to avoid the possibility of a suspect attempting to stop a dog in its duties.
The individual dogs also go home with their handlers. Each of the K-9s on the Fayetteville Police Department spends time seeming to appear more as a family pet than a working member of the law enforcement community.
“We get them out, and we play with them often. The dogs are part of our family,” Scarbarough stated. “They’ll see some downtime the same as we do, but we spend a lot of time with them and make sure that they know that they’re loved and that their contribution to our communities is acknowledged and appreciated.”
In recent weeks, contributions have included assisting the Clayton County Police Department in searching for an armed suspect from a shooting incident and assisting the Fairburn Police Department in locating a fleeing suspect from a crashed vehicle.
In both instances, the dogs’ natural tendencies to want to please their handlers and the training that the animals received combined to attempt to bring a safe end to potentially hazardous situations.
“Most stuff that I’ve done recently has been outside of the county. When my vehicle lights come on, he gets peppier,” Collins stated about Gizmo. “He knows when it’s time to work.”
For Baco, Gizmo, and Max, the times between work and play are just another part of a routine that brings out the best in all three dogs.
“Gizmo is always happiest when he’s working. Everything we do is so rewarding, and for us, it’s not work or part of the job,” Collins said. “When we are responding to a call, the dogs seem to know what’s going on just as soon as we do. I think people don’t know a lot about what goes on behind the scenes. There’s a lot of effort and training behind the K-9 units.”