• Roger Sims, Journal Staff

Sheriff's office adds new K-9 unit to the force

Updated: Nov 11

Linn County Sheriff's Deputy Cody Kiser and the department's new dog, Charger, trained for most of October before being certified to work together. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

There’s a new dog in town. And this dog comes loaded with talent.

He can attack on command, he can find people in a building or in the open, and he can quickly sniff out illegal drugs. How he ended up in Linn County was by chance, though.

When Cody Kiser was hired to be a part-time deputy with the Linn County Sheriff’s Office last January, he asked about advancement opportunities in the department.

Bringing six years of law enforcement experience – the last as a detective with the Hutchison, Kan., police department – he indicated he would be interested in being a handler for a K-9 unit. But it was more than just an interest.

“Being a K-9 handler has always been a dream for me,” said Kiser, who moved up to a full-time deputy in June.

The deputy said he joined a private Facebook page for K-9 handlers, and early last month discovered that a police department in southern Utah had a trained dog that it couldn’t keep after the dog’s handler left his job. The department posted that the dog was available to a non-profit organization on first come, first-served basis.

Not only was the dog available, it was trained to sniff out all drugs – including marijuana, methamphetamines and heroin. And it was also trained to apprehend a suspect, protect his handler, and conduct building searches, he said. That meant the dog could find people or people in a building, a vehicle, or in the open.

Charger, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, is also trained to a bark-and-hold command. With that command, he will lay down in front of a suspect and bark to keep the suspect from moving. If necessary, he will bite on command, but the deputy said the bark-and-hold order gives the suspect the ability to surrender peacefully and protects the department from any liability issues arising from a bite.

With the approval of Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend, Kiser contacted the Utah department and after talking with staff there was given the green light to travel to pickup the dog. The addition of Charger gives the sheriff's office two K-9 units now, however, the older dog is within a few years of being retired as a service dog.

Kiser said the cost of a fully trained dog like Charger, would be around $15,000 plus the cost of travel to pick up the dog. But there was no charge for this dog, and aside from Kiser’s traveling expenses of about $3,000, there no charge.

Once he arrived in Utah, he and the dog spent about six hours together with a couple of handlers to make sure the deputy and the canine were compatible. Those handlers continue to text back and forth with Kiser two days after he received the dog to make sure the two were doing well.

The deputy said the round-trip drive to Utah was long and exhausting, but he picked up the dog on Oct. 11. When he returned home with the dog, he found that Friend and Undersheriff Bobby Johnson had purchased a kennel for his home.

Following the trip, the two spent the first two weeks bonding as a team.

Then it was time to begin training – not so much for Charger but for Deputy Kiser, who wanted to become a certified handler. For the next few weeks, the deputy and the dog traveled to Iron Heart training center near Pomona, Kan., where the trainer tested Charger to see how much of his training he retained and to teach Kiser how to be a skilled handler.

“The trainer couldn’t believe I got a dog this good for free,” Kiser said.

For the first part of the course, the trainer made sure that Charger still had good judgment, performing tests that the dog passed easily.

“He hasn’t made mistakes in training so far,” the deputy said toward the end of training.

The final test came when both Kiser and Charger were tested by an independent trainer for certification.

One item that Kiser plans to buy for Charger is a ballistic vest. “Suspects are more violent now than they were,” he said.

The deputy now considers the dog more like a back-up officer who has been able to sense his mood.

“We feed off each other,” Kiser said. “If I’m down, he’s down. If I’m up he’s up.”

And while the dog is trained to be a hard-nosed working dog who can stop suspects in their tracks, he’s also very social, the deputy said. “He doesn’t show aggression unless I tell him to,” he added.

An earlier version of this story had a misspelling of Cody Kiser's name and incorrectly identified the breed of Charger. We regret the errors.

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