CATEGORY: Alcorn County
HED: Corinth police add new K-9 cops, handler
By Michaela Gibson Morris
The Corinth Police Department has two new officers-in-training, but they don’t write traffic tickets or carry guns.
Two German shepherds, 18-month-old Baron and 9-month-old Caesar, are being trained in drug detection, building searches and criminal apprehension, said Corinth K-9 Officer Chip Timbes, who has been training dogs for the department since 1990.
The department is rebuilding its K-9 unit after losing its veteran dog, Hoss, to heat stroke this summer.
“The dogs are excited to work,” Timbes said.
Timbes’ new two-legged partner, Officer Tony Holmes, has begun training with Baron as the department’s second handler. Timbes, a 14-year law enforcement veteran, joined the Corinth Police Department two years ago.
“It’s something I’ve always been interested in,” said Timbes, who has worked primarily in narcotics enforcement.
Timbes and Holmes are training the dogs from the ground up, which takes more time but saves the police department a lot of money.
A fully trained dog normally would cost a police department between $5,000 and $6,000, Corinth Police Chief Fred Johnson estimated.
“We’ve saved pretty much all of that with the dogs being donated and the officers doing the training during their normal working hours,” Johnson said.
Baron was donated to the police department by Sue Dixon of Biggersville, Timbes said. Caesar was donated to the department by Byran Stevens, who recently moved to Corinth from Memphis.
Timbes and Holmes began working with the dogs in October. It will probably take about four more months to complete the dogs’ basic training, Timbes said.
Holmes had wanted to start training with the dogs six months ago, but he was temporarily sidelined with Hodgkin’s disease, a lymphatic cancer.
Holmes is still in treatment, but is closing in on remission status and his doctor has given him the green light to work as a K-9 officer.
“It’s one of the best mental lifts,” Holmes said. “It’s got more of an attachment for me than just dog and handler.”
The dogs live at the officers’ homes so they become more attached to their trainers.
“It’s probably the biggest asset (as a trainer),” Holmes said. “If you don’t bond with the dog, he won’t work for you.”
About two weeks ago, the officers began training the dogs to detect marijuana and cocaine after focusing on obedience during the first months of training. Timbes said they decided to concentrate on those two substances because they are the most common in the area.
Most of the responses the dogs are learning are passive. When they smell drugs, the dogs are trained to sit instead of scratching at a car or a door.
“There are only two times they are trained to bite,” Timbes said: to subdue a fleeing criminal or protect an officer.
Already the dogs have earned a chance to test out their new skills.
During a search of the city jail, both dogs kept trying to approach an inmate, who officers later found was hiding marijuana in his pants. Because of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the dogs can’t search people, but the dogs’ actions show they are recognizing the scent of the marijuana, Timbes said.
On the job, Timbes and Holmes have received a lot of support from their fellow officers as they train the new dogs.
“The other officers are helping us a lot,” Timbes said, by taking extra calls to let them train the dogs during their shifts.
Even though he enjoys training with young Caesar, Timbes said he still thinks about Hoss, the dog he worked with for nearly seven years before Hoss died this summer.
“I think about him every day,” Timbes said. Hoss is buried at the department’s firing range, where the officers also train the dogs.
On an extremely hot day in late June, Hoss had been sitting in a patrol car with the air conditioner running, when the car overheated and shut down. Timbes was able to get Hoss to the veterinarian’s office and the dog appeared to be recovering when he began to breathe irregularly and slipped away, he said.
To prevent the tragedy of Hoss’ death from reoccurring, the officers will take extra precautions.
“We’re definitely going to really conscientious,” Timbes said.
In extremely hot weather, Timbes said they plan to leave both dogs in kennels at Timbes’ Corinth home, unless they are needed.