Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hiding Contraband Gets "Ruff"

He struts along without a care in the world, but when it comes down to the business of keeping bad guys from committing more crimes and keeping staff members and other inmates safe, he’s one of the best.

He instills fear in those that are up to no good and has found thousands of dollars worth of contraband that might have gone undiscovered.  He leads the pack, literally, and he does all this without saying a single word.

Sergeant Wayne Conrad and his K-9 Caesar
He is Caesar, a Belgian Malinois who joined CDCR on April 14, 2009. He belongs to Correctional Sergeant Wayne Conrad, the statewide coordinator for CDCR’s K-9 Program. Under their leadership, the program has 30 trained contraband-detection dogs that have proven to be an invaluable asset to the department by detecting weapons, narcotics, and cell phones.
In October 2008, CDCR had four narcotic-detection dogs, two assigned to the California Training Facility in Soledad and the other two assigned to California State Prison, Solano.

More and more cell phones were making their way into the hands of inmates and threatening the safety of staff, other inmates, and the outside community. Tasked with finding a dog that could sniff out cell phones at little or no cost to the department, Conrad obtained Caesar from the California Belgian Malinois Rescue. Based on Caesar’s success as the department’s first cell phone-detection dog, a second dog and handler team were approved to begin training. Drako, donated at no cost by a San Diego-area Belgian Malinois breeder, started training and began service in September 2009.

After the tremendous success of these dog/handler pairs, CDCR officials decided to expand the number K-9 teams. Teams were strategically stationed at institutions. The goal was for a team to be able to travel to an institution, conduct a search, and make it back to their home institution within an eight-hour shift.  Each one of CDCR’s 30 dogs was donated through various breeders and shelters. The price tag for one of these specially trained dogs can run as high as $7,000. All K-9 teams attend an initial 160-hour course, as well as mandatory three-times-a-month training administered by Conrad.

On March 6, 2012, for the first time ever, all 30 dogs and their handlers assembled at the Galt Training Facility for additional training, awards presentations and contraband searches at two CDCR institutions the following day. As all of the dogs gathered in the auditorium, it was panting and barking aplenty with the dogs anxiously waiting to start working or intently searching for their toys.

K-9 contraband teams search cells at Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, California

Since May 2010, the K-9 teams have found more than 2,300 cell phones,  1,100 cell phone chargers, 64 blue tooth devices, 14 SIM cards, 18 cell phone chargers, 20 pounds of narcotics, 540 pounds of tobacco, and almost 200 pieces of drug paraphernalia.

On March 7, 2012, the 30 teams split up, some going to Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI) in Tracy and others to Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) in Jamestown.  At DVI, the dogs found a weapon, inmate-manufactured wine, and narcotics. During the search at SCC and two nearby conservation camps, the dogs located five cell phones, six cell phone chargers, six SIM cards, seven pounds of tobacco, and five grams of marijuana.

All the dogs ask for in exchange for their efforts are a chew toy and lots of love. Just another day in the life of a CDCR contraband search canine.