WALLACE — In just over six months on the job, the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office’s investment in a drug detection K-9 appears to be more than paying off.
Deputy Ben Abshire and his two-year-old Labrador Lulu have been on the lookout for illegal substances in the county since they came back from training last May.
SCSO Captain Jeremy Groves told the News-Press that in the seven months that the duo has been active, they have been deployed a total of 64 times. As a direct result of those deployments, SCSO has seized over 100 grams of methamphetamine, just under 5,000 grams of marijuana, one gram of heroin and 35 items of drug paraphernalia.
“Going off of what you figure an average for street value is on things,” Groves added, “she has taken approximately $21,000 worth of drugs off the streets.”
In addition to the seizures, Lulu’s keen nose has also helped Abshire make 36 drug related arrests.
Groves is pleased with these numbers, saying that they more than justify the initial $12,000 spent to get Lulu and train the two.
“Lulu has proved very worth of what we have invested in her and her handler,” he explained. “Having the dog gives us another tool in the tool bag for not only the handler, but any officer at any time can request her.”
This situational flexibility is apparent when one considers just how many operations and agencies the duo has assisted with.
From participating in the prevalent enforcement emphasis’ conducted by Idaho State Police in the Silver Valley, to a Border Patrol operation along the Canadian border — Abshire and Lulu’s skills have been in high demand. Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Game Officers have also called on them for help in certain situations.
On the community-oriented side of things, Lulu and Abshire have been known to pop into local schools for both work and play.
Lulu has conducted two school ‘walkthroughs’ during her seven months on duty (one of which lead to a positive “hit”), but has also showed up at local elementary schools to simply say hi to the kids.
Sheriff Mike Gunderson explained in a previous interview that Lulu is meant to be approachable.
“We wanted to make sure that the first dog we have for our program is a community dog,” he said. “It’s (about) getting our community understanding what the program is and getting them to support it again.”
The young and energetic Lulu was trained by Pacific Coast K-9 in Custer, Wash., to detect four major controlled substances: marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy). These skills provided by Lulu give law enforcement a clear edge in sniffing out drugs that they simply wouldn’t have otherwise.
“That dog has skills we don’t to locate something in a vehicle or assist toward getting enough probable cause for a search warrant,” Groves said.
K-9s like Lulu aid even in the conviction of suspects after an arrest has been made.
In a previous interview with the News-Press, Shoshone County Prosecuting Attorney Keisha Oxendine explained that having a K-9 involved in a case she is prosecuting is a game changer.
“In every case I can think of where a K-9 has alerted, we’ve gotten a conviction,” she said. “Whether it be by them pleading guilty or them being convicted at trial.”
Oxendine added that from a legal standpoint, a K-9’s credibility allows both her and law enforcement to do things that could not be done without them.
“The big benefit on our end is that if a trained K-9 for law enforcement gets an alert on a vehicle, there is a well established case law that says a certified K-9 alerting on a vehicle is probable cause to search the vehicle.”
With the success of Abshire and Lulu, SCSO is already looking to add a second dog.
“What she has done in just seven months shows that she was needed,” Groves said. “Having a trained deputy to handle dogs like Lulu helps us move forward on our goal of getting a second dog.”
K-9’s, like people, must have rest days– especially after working. Since Abshire and Lulu cannot be available every second of every day, Groves explains that the addition of a second drug dog would provide more coverage and ensure that law enforcement has better access to this asset.
After all, having a K-9 on scene could be the difference-maker in a traffic stop.
“A lot of those items seized would have never gotten off the street without her (Lulu),” Grove said.
There is currently no time-table on when SCSO would receive a second dog.
For more information on Deputy Abshire and Lulu, visit www.shoshonenewspress.com and search “Deputy Lulu, at your service” for our first story on the duo.