Halstead’s new police dog gets to work

HALSTEAD—The Halstead Police Department’s new K9 has already been putting his nose to good use. Edy detected marijuana and a THC-infused vape pen during a traffic stop on his third day working for Halstead.

“Without him, we wouldn’t have been able to search the vehicle,” Edy’s handler, Sergeant Matt Stovall, said. “We ran him on the car, and he gave an indication to the odor of illegal drugs and that’s what allowed us to search the car.”

Edy, a 15-month-old Belgian Malinois, has lots of energy and is very sociable. His first day on the job was March 11.

“He’s happy to work, ready to work 100 percent of the time,” Stovall said. “He works around people just fine, but when it’s not time to work, he just wants some love.”

Stovall said he and Edy have started forming a close bond.

“He lives with me; he comes home every night to the house, so it’s hard not to get attached to something like that, especially when you’re caring for him and he’s with you every day at work and every night at home,” he said.

If members of the public see the K9 out and about, Stovall recommends they ask permission first before petting Edy to make sure he isn’t busy tracking a scent.

“It’s always in the best interest to ask,” he said. “Don’t just come up and pet him because he may be working at the time.”

Edy is not trained as a “bite” dog and won’t be used for such purposes, unlike some K9s.

The department hopes to get seven to nine years of service out of Edy, provided all goes well and he stays healthy.

“He’s a young guy; he’s a pup,” Police Chief Josh Orem said. “Which I liked because it should give you more service life. Some of those dogs coming out of training are at over two years, so you’re losing a year of service life out of it.”

Edy was born in the Czech Republic and began obedience training at about three months old. His training continued at BlueStreak K9 in Arkansas at least four months.

“He’s trained to detect marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy,” Stovall said.

Before Stovall brought Edy to his new Halstead home, the two of them underwent a week of training together in Arkansas.

“That was a week straight of a lot of learning and on-the-go training,” Stovall said. “The dog was fully trained before I went, so it was a matter of me being trained out to handle him.”

They spent a day in the classroom and then the next four days on the move in different training scenarios.

“We worked at fairgrounds and old hotels and car lots, just different facilities with different environments for the dog to work in and us to learn to handle them in,” Stovall said. “Small rooms, large areas.”

Stovall explained that a change in Edy’s behavior like a head snap or a deeper sniff alerts them that he’s detected drugs.

“Basically he has detected an odor at that point, and his behavior changes then trying to locate that odor, and once he does he will sit,” Stovall said.

Stovall said he won’t automatically use Edy on every traffic stop he makes but will consider a number of variables first.

“If there’s something that just sticks out to us, maybe we know history on the person we’ve stopped, or there’s some behaviors, prior knowledge or conditions in place that raise suspicion,” he said.

When Stovall and Edy are off-duty, other officers may request the K-9 services in certain situations. Orem said the department would be cognizant of its budget when deciding this.

“It’s something that we want to avoid happening every day, but we’re not going to discourage it if it’s a good, valid use,” he said. “It’s really going to come down to taking each situation on its own and weighing the benefits and deciding if it’s in the best interest of the cit and Matt and Edy both.”

The pair has been continuing to train on a daily basis on drug detection and tracking.

“Other than that, it’s just putting him to use on traffic stops or when businesses need help,” Stovall said. “We’ve been contacted by some businesses and are waiting to set some things up, but the coronavirus has slowed down a little bit of that progress and how much contact everyone’s wanting to have with people.”

Demonstrations of the new K9 at the spring Family Fun Night, the Lions Club and the American Legion have been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19.

Orem expects the department’s new Dodge Durango to be ready to use at the start of April, which will include a specialty kennel for Edy with more room.

Edy is the sixth K9 in Harvey County, joining two in Newton, one at the sheriff’s office, one in Hesston and one in North Newton.