12/13/09 — Goldsboro police dogs take round of certification exams

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Goldsboro police dogs take round of certification exams

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on December 13, 2009 1:50 AM

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Goldsboro police K-9 officers and their dogs from left to right are: Chris Outlaw and "Lucky" Jeff Beeken and "Canoe" Wayne Cannucci and "Suzie" and Hosea Newsome and "Iko."

Getting a police dog certified is anything but a certainty, and failure can mean the dogs' noses might be harder to use as evidence if they are used to find narcotics and suspects.

Goldsboro's four canine-handling officers know that, they said, and certification is a stressful time for both them and the dogs.

"It doesn't matter how many times you go. You're going to have the butterflies a little bit," said Jeff Beeken, who has handled dogs for the Goldsboro Police Department for 10 years.

An officer must control his stress, Beeken said, because the officers believe the dogs tend to display their owners' anxiety.

"You've got to try not to have them (anxious feelings)," Beeken said. "We've been told all along, that (anxiety) goes right down the leash. If you're a little bit nervous or apprehensive, the dog is going to feel it."

There are two certifications that Goldsboro's police dogs need to take each year, called Police Dog I and Police Dog II, the officers said.

The dogs all certified in Police Dog I training, held in Carolina Beach in October, Maj. Mike Hopper said.

The second of the tests, pitting the dogs' sense of smell against the challenges of hidden caches of narcotics, recently took place in Wilson.

Josea Newsome, who has also been a dog-handling officer for about a decade, knows what it's like to have a police dog fail.

Newsome is on his third dog, Iko, who last year did not certify for drug searches, the officer said.

"What I was told by the instructors, is that I need to be more, I guess, sure of my dog. I wasn't really sure if he had found the drugs or not," Newsome said.

The officer said Iko is different from his first two police dogs, attempting to communicate with Newsome in a more passive way.

"I'm used to my dogs being aggressive and scratching and barking and biting. A lot of times, he keys on me," Newsome said of the dog he has had for about two years.

Officer Chris Outlaw is the newest dog handler to join the force, having served for a little more than two years, he said.

"I think it's the best job out here, being a police K9," Outlaw said.

Outlaw said the dogs and officers go through a minimum of 18 hours of training per month, as required by the U.S. Police Canine Association.

The officer said the dogs tend to be more reliable than even the most trusted of their human friends.

"They're loyal, and they always listen to what you say. They've always got your back, whenever you need them," Outlaw said.

On a day-to-day basis, the officer said, the dogs are often in problem areas within the city.

"We do a lot of foot patrols in high-drug areas," the officer said.

Officer Wayne Cannucci has been working with police dogs in Goldsboro for about nine years, he said.

Cannucci agreed with the other officers that certification is a stressful time.

"Just making sure your dog does what it's supposed to, because dogs can have a bad day, too," Cannucci said. "You want to get your dog through, and then you want to get them back on the street."