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Graves sheriff gets much-coveted drug dog

BY CORIANNE EGAN cegan@paducahsun.com

MAYFIELD - Sometimes drug money can come in handy. For the Graves County Sheriff's Department, the money purchased the detectives a new weapon against drug dealers in the county: a highly-trained dog.

"It's an expensive tool, but we are expecting he will pay for himself within the year," Sheriff Dewayne Redmon said. "We couldn't afford it right away. But with seized money and forfeited money, we made the decision to go ahead. It's an investment. Thanks to the Graves County drug dealers, we can do this."

Deputy Brad Lamb and his new K9 partner, Sakal, graduated from training on Thursday in North Carolina and made the long trek back to Graves County for their first day on the job Friday morning. Between the training, purchase and transportation for the dog, the purchase comes in at about $16,000 to $18,000.

Sakal is a 2-year-old German Shepherd. He's smaller than the average police dog, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in speed and agility. Lamb said the department was looking for a social dog so they could parade him to local events, but also a K9 that would have the drive to bring down drug dealers.

The department hasn't had a dog since the summer of 2012. Before purchasing Sakal, Graves relied on other departments. One of those departments was the McCracken County Sheriff's Department. McCracken's dog is Pepo and his handler is Deputy Steve Croft. Unlike Sakal, Pepo is a high-drive mix between Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd - which Croft describes as the ultimate police dog - and specializes in high-risk situations.

"Two weeks ago, we were trying to make an arrest and a crowd of about 20 or 30 people came between myself and the other officers," Croft said. "The situation was getting hairy, so I got Pepo out of the car, and as soon as he started barking everyone parted like the Red Sea and dispersed. K9s are a huge deterrent. They make sure things don't escalate."

Pepo paid for himself within a week, Croft said, busting a drug ring that brought in about $14,000 for the department. McCracken's drug unit sings Pepo's praises, noting that he has a knack for finding drugs that are hidden in walls or in the panels of vehicles. He also scares suspects into coming peacefully, Sgt. Jesse Riddle said, instead of resisting arrest or trying to run.

"He's all business," Riddle said. "With our drug unit, we try to fund ourselves. We don't use the department's budget. And every dollar he finds or criminal he puts in jail just makes us that much more successful."

Lamb and the Graves County department are hoping Sakal will have a similar effect on their department. They also plan to bring him to schools, and Redmon said they plan to lend a hand to the surrounding counties as well.

"We're here to help now," Redmon said. "Some of those counties, the river counties or nearby counties who don't have a dog, we can help out now."

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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