K-9 unit protecting and serving county

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit is continuing its hard-working commitment to keeping drugs out of the county.
The county’s K-9 unit is comprised of K-9 officer Rick Mitchell and his dog, Riddick, a Belgian Malinois, and K-9 officer Drew Askey and his K-9, Bane, a Dutch Shepherd.
Mitchell said he started with the Red Oak Police Department in 2005 before moving to the K-9 department in 2009.
“I feel like I’m one of the luckiest guys on our department, other than Drew, because I always have my partner with me. He’s always riding around with me. I was a handler with the police department before moving to the sheriff’s office. I’ve been a handler ever since. Riddick is dual-certified. He can do narcotics detection in vehicles and houses and all types of scenarios,” Mitchell said. “When I say dual certified, that means that Riddick is also trained in tracking and apprehension. If we find a business with a door broken out in the middle of the night, we’ll make announcements and send the dog in to clear the building.”
One of Mitchell’s most memorable finds was when he executed a search warrant after receiving intel that a home was housing guns and drugs.
“We heard they were in the walls, and while executing the warrant, the dog indicated narcotics along one of the walls. It ended up being a false wall, and when we pulled it apart, we discovered stolen guns and narcotics,” Mitchell explained.
Askey said he got into law enforcement with the Red Oak Police Department before moving to the sheriff’s office in 2019.
“I was able to get Bane in October of 2022. Rick and former deputy Nate Elwood got me interested in K-9 service. I was lucky enough to be chosen as a second K-9 officer. My dog is also dual certified just like Riddick is,” stated Askey.
Mitchell said there were a number of things that drew him to becoming a K-9 officer, including the adrenaline rush.
“It’s always something that I’ve wanted to do. I never knew that I would have the opportunity, and when I did, I jumped at the chance. I love getting drugs off of our streets and I love going home knowing that Riddick and I have made a difference,” Mitchell said.
As for Askey, he said he became a part of the K-9 unit at the behest of Mitchell himself.
“I was at the police department at the time, and Rick asked me if I’d be willing to get into a bite suit for him to train the dogs. I started going to the trainings and I fell in love with the process. I knew it was something I wanted to do in the future, and luckily I have the opportunity to do it for Montgomery County. I love seeing how my dog has grown from a puppy to the K-9 officer that he is today and see all the hard work come to fruition,” Askey advised.
To aid in the safety of their K-9s, the Askey said they use a K-9 bulletproof and stab-proof vest that was donated to the department.
“If we’re ever in a situation where we’re sending our dog somewhere that weapons are involved, we can strap this onto our K-9 and they have that extra protection and support,” Askey said. “The costs range from $500 to $2,000. There’s a company called Vested Interest that donated the vest. They donate these vests to K-9 handlers all across the United States.”
Mitchell said it was very important for rural areas such as Montgomery County to have a K-9 unit at their disposal.
“We use our dogs frequently, and this year, we’ve been overwhelmed with calls., be that narcotics, apprehension, or pursuits, and not just in our county, but other counties as well. It’s a very valuable tool that we use,” Mitchell commented
Askey explained that when it came to searches, he, Mitchell, and the K-9s were only deployed in certain situations.
“If a deputy or officer makes a traffic stop and has probable cause at that time, they no longer need us. We’re only to assist an officer that has a reasonable suspicion of narcotics to assist that officer or deputy in their investigation. That’s what we’re used for. If the officer or deputy already has that probable cause and knows there are narcotics in the vehicle, being in plain sight or emission, or whatever, we’re not needed at that point. We’re mainly there to pinpoint the narcotics if it’s been very well hidden in the car and we need to find where it’s located,” Askey explained.
When it comes to the drug training, Mitchell said the dogs are trained with very small amounts of drugs, and the training is done up to four times a month, depending on the weather.
“We train with an ounce, or grams. A gram is a very miniscule amount. We’ll put a small amount in the center console. Then we close it up and let it set and we have our dogs get up to the rear bumper, then go under and come out and keep going around. They crawl all the way under and then stare up right under where the center console is at. They always amaze me. I love training day, because there’s always something new. We’re always pushing our dogs to be better,” stated Mitchell. “The dogs are also trained for evidence recovery or a crime scene. The dogs can find spent casings on the ground, or find where a suspect has thrown away a gun or tossed drugs away.”
Also, Mitchell said the K-9s are not only trained to find small amounts of drugs, they’re trained for certain types.
“Our dogs are certified in methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin, and cocaine. They are not trained for marijuana. The reason for that is because the laws for marijuana change every day. We don’t want to run into a Colorado situation where it’s legalized, and then all the dogs that are trained and certified on marijuana can no longer be a K-9 for that state,” explained Mitchell.
Askey added that the elimination of the marijuana training also helps them when it comes to trials.
“It’s gotten to the point where the person may get off on a technicality. The defense will argue the dog is certified in marijuana, but maybe we find both in the car. They’re both illegal substances but the certification may be called into question. Defense attorneys will find any way to tear us apart,” commented Askey.
Mitchell described one of his more memorable stops involving a small amount of narcotics.
“My very first find with my last dog was up under a bench seat over the transmission hump. When I was just even coming up to the vehicle, he went into the mode and was walking from tail light to tail light,” Mitchell said. “The dog could already smell there were drugs. Once we went down the passenger side, we went down the seam, across the door, came back, and he found it.”
The training isn’t limited to hiding drugs in various places in vehicles.
“We’ll go into a building and get up into a ceiling light and put odor up there. The dogs come in and it’s funny to watch them. They start sniffing the walls, but then they realize it’s not down in the walls, it’s up. Eventually you can get a dog standing on it’s hind legs in the middle of a room spinning in a circle because they’ve found the drugs,” advised Mitchell.
One of the best parts of the job, Askey said, is that every day is different, which makes training instrumental.
“We want to put the dogs, and ourselves, in the most uncomfortable and awkward situations. We even brainstorm situations we can put ourselves in so that when we’re out on the street and it’s the real deal, we have something imprinted in our brains, and our dog’s brains. If you’re on a scene and you’re confused or don’t feel good about it, the dog will pick up that sense also. If you’re scared or nervous, your dog will be as well,” Askey said. “We also have a great group of guys around us. We train will Mills, Cass, Fremont, and all of the other counties around us. That way we’re getting other certified K-9 handlers giving us tips we need to work on, and we’re building a rapport for when we’re in a situation where we’re assisting another county.”
Askey added that at least the numbers of labs being cultivated in the county have been drastically diminished.
“That’s kind of gone by the wayside. When they changed the ingredient in the anhydrous ammonia that the farmers use, that got rid of a lot of the homemade labs that you were seeing around here,” said Askey. “It’s kind of crazy now some of the meth you see. If you get pseudoephedrine at the grocery store, you can make methamphetamine with pretty much that and other items you can get just as the grocery store.”
Mitchell said the K-9s are no different than any dog at home, and are rewarded for their hard work.
“They want to make us happy, but they work for their KONG, which is a dog toy. If we get a positive alert when we’re doing a vehicle search, then we’ll toss the KONG and tell them they’re a good boy and things like that. It’s amazing how a dog will get ball crazy and will do anything for something as simple as this. We give them these rewards rather than treats because the dogs have to stay in peak physical condition,” Mitchell stated.
Askey added that if the K-9 officer is treated as a pet, it will become soft very quickly.
“You could have a very motivated dual-purpose dog that will become a house pet in no time,” Askey advised.
Mitchell said there’s never a set time frame when the dogs are aged out or retired from the job, and the decision is difficult.
“I had one dog that I had to retire after about four and a half years. Jumping in and out of the vehicles is rough on them. My last shepherd that I had was on the job for nine years. It’s up to us as handlers to make that determination. One of the hardest part of my jobs is retiring a dog. The retired dog stays with me, but then when I get a new dog, I’m vesting him up and walking out with him,” Mitchell advised. “When I’m walking out with him, and then looking back at my retired dog and having him look at me almost asking what he’s done wrong, that’s hard. It’s probably the hardest part of my job.”
Askey said other difficulties are the fact that the laws continued to change which makes their jobs harder.
“It’s difficult at times. And when you’re a K-9 handler, your brain has to constantly be working, and thinking when the time is to get the dog out, or if it’s the best move. Once we get the dog out, liability is huge nowadays, be it apprehension or a narcotics stop,” Askey commented.
Mitchell, Askey, Riddick, and Bane were recently honored with an event at Oak Valley Animal Hospital as part of K-9 Veterans Day.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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