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Airport K-9 Unit is DOGgone Good
By Herschel J. Grangent, Jr.

As a veteran law official, this Sheriff has a nose for any illegal activity going on around him. One could say it’s a gift he has had since he was a young pup.

That’s because at one point he actually was a young pup. Sheriff is a German shepherd, and he is one of 12 narcotics and bomb-sniffing canines that partner with officers of the Atlanta Police Department-Airport Section’s Explosive Ordinance Detection (EOD) Unit.

Sherrifs rewards K-9 officer.

On this particular day, Sheriff is simply practicing his skills in a safe location near the outskirts of Airport property, but he is more than ready for any real threat inside Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s main terminal.

“With the threat of suicide bombers in other parts of the world, it’s important that our canines are trained to look for more than just the traditional explosive device inside a suitcase,” said K-9 Officer Derrick Davis of APD.

“What we have today is an officer wearing a vest with C-4 in the pockets, simulating a suicide bomber.”

K-9 Officer in action

The officer walks away slowly from the dog, and it is up to Sheriff to “hit” on the explosives in the vest, which means he does something to indicate that he detects them. Sheriff successfully hits on the vest and then jumps up to grab it aggressively with his teeth.

“Good boy, now off!” yells Davis. Sheriff is then rewarded with his favorite toy, a well-worn, well-chewed tennis ball.

“If this had been a real suicide bomber, Sheriff would have attempted to pull him to the ground to assist us in apprehending him,” said Davis.

Established in the 1970s, the K-9/EOD Unit at Hartsfield-Jackson is one of several law enforcement agencies responsible for the safety and security of the millions of passengers who travel through the Airport annually. Over the last three decades, its responsibilities have increased as it is now activated more than 100 times per year to inspect suspicious items in checked and carry-on luggage.

“Our canine force is an extension of the excellent police force that we have patrolling at Hartsfield-Jackson,” said Ben DeCosta, Airport general manager.

The dogs and handlers are routinely seen at the main security checkpoint, the North and South Terminal curbside areas and various locations throughout the Airport concourses.

© 2007 Hartsfield-Jackson News. A Publication from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. All rights reserved.


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