Early retirement: Front Royal K9 loses job after marijuana laws change | Winchester Star

ROYAL BEFORE – Maverick was looking for illegal drugs during his first sniffer job as a K-9 cop when help came from the most unlikely source – the suspects themselves.

On Halloween 2018, the black Labrador was alerted that narcotics might be in a car. As Maverick snorted, the passengers in the car began to applaud him.

“Is that how it’s going to work?” its handler, Olivia Meadows, an officer in the Front’s Royal Police Department, remembers thinking at the time. “Not what I expected.”

And then it happened again.

A second alert indicated that there may be marijuana in a backpack in the backseat.

“The kid just goes, ‘Yeah, that’s in the backseat,'” Meadows said. “‘It’s mine.'”

“Again, I had no idea it was going to be this easy.”

After 200 drug investigations and over 150 seizures, Maverick retired from the Front Royal Police Department. His retirement comes seven years earlier than the end of a typical K-9 career, but he can no longer be used after 2020 legislation made it illegal to use marijuana odor detection as a cause. likely for further investigation.

Since Virginians can now possess marijuana in quantities of up to one ounce, a police search using a K-9 trained in marijuana detection could violate a person’s rights, a said Meadows.

“It really depends on what our prosecutors can prosecute and how the judges rule,” Meadows said. “There are still a lot of illegal marijuana offenses – smoking and driving, kids in the vehicle, marijuana on school grounds.”

Losing marijuana sniffing dogs removes a tool in the fight against drugs in a drug-ridden area, without the funding to compensate for it, said Major Kevin Nicewarner of the Front Royal Police Department.

“We really delayed this as long as we could,” Nicewarner said, adding, “we need a drugged dog. Our elected officials have done us no favors.

Drug seizures from four-year-old Maverick included more than 600 strips of Suboxone, with a street value of $40,000, about 50 capsules of fentanyl and methamphetamine and nearly 90 grams of methamphetamine, Meadows said.

In an investigation, Meadows was about to move on after searching a bathroom when Maverick alerted her to an area next to the toilet. A plunger had a narcotics capsule underneath.

In another instance, Maverick spent several minutes focused on a corner of a room that had a lot of clutter and bags. Investigators found a purse with a capsule containing a mixture of fentanyl and heroin.

During another search, Maverick bumped his nose into a person who had their hands in their pockets. There was a strip of Suboxone in the person’s wallet.

“He’s so phased,” Meadows said, explaining that Maverick is able to differentiate that the drugs are on a person, not in a vehicle. It can also do its job in minutes.

“An average sniff on a vehicle lasts 30 seconds, depending on how many times it circles,” Meadows said. “And it’s hovering around an average of two. If he hasn’t found anything by then, as long as there isn’t [odor] conflict…so he’s not interested.

The department, with funding from the Front Royal Police Foundation, invested around $10,000 in training Maverick, which included four to six weeks at Shallow Creek Kennels in Pennsylvania where he learned commands in Dutch, the language typically used. in the K-9 community.

Maverick, who performed well in search and rescue missions, might not have been trained to detect the smell of marijuana, Meadows said.

But it would have taken more money, she said. The other K-9 in the department – ​​a German Shepherd named Bosco – can be used for search and rescue since he was trained for that from the start in addition to narcotics detection, for which he will not be. no longer used either.

Meadows now works the day shift while Maverick stays home.

“I have friends from other states that their agencies have sold their dogs to,” Meadows said. “You have members of law enforcement who view dogs more as a tool than a work partner.”

But that wasn’t the case at the Front Royal Police Department, where Maverick was good at “loving”, Captain Crystal Cline said.

As Meadows sat in his cruiser with the lights off during the night patrol shift, Maverick was his stand-in, growling when someone passed by.

“Smooth is slow and slow is steady,” Meadows said of his calm temper. “I was always grateful to be the idiot on the end of his leash.”

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