TUPELO – Two K-9 officers from the Tupelo Police Department, along with their K-9 counterparts, placed in competitions while training at Parchman last week.
K-9 handler Walter Wilkerson and his partner, Pelé, took second place in the Narcotics location competition out of a field of 31 competitors.
Wilkerson and Pelé were tasked with going into a room and recovering as many drugs in three minutes as Pelé could mark.
Zach Anderson placed third in the firearms competition where he shot from seven yards to 50 yards with a handgun.
Anderson’s partner is Bo.
The training at Parchman was part of the handlers’ 16-hours of K-9 training federally required each month. If the officers do not meet the 16-hour requirement, they cannot work with their dog.
“Anytime you can be alone with your dog is great,” Anderson said. “That way when I’m in the street, I know what I’m looking for.”
The training included obedience, tracking and apprehension with a focus on narcotics.
The K-9s were used to track the shooter in the Barley Court shooting last year, track the suspect in last year’s Walgreens armed robbery and find evidence in a recent bank robbery.
“I can’t tell you how many pistols we’ve pulled out of the woods,” Anderson said. “If they don’t get a suspect, they get evidence.”
The training is just part of what it takes to work with K-9s.
“We spend a considerable amount of time on our off days with these animals,” Wilkerson said. “It’s a never ending project, something that always needs to be fine tuned.”
Wilkerson said the dogs become an integral part of each handler’s life.
“They become more than family,” he said. “They are with you at work and they come home with you and they train with you.”
Anderson, a part-time youth minister added, “I talk to Bo all the time. He’s heard me preach a few sermons in the car.”
The time invested in the animals pays off in the end.
“He’s my buddy and when you have to use him, he’s nice to have around,” Anderson said. “Last year we had to deploy him a few times where he had my back and one time I credit him for saving me. He got between me and a pistol.”
Each officer has been working with his dog for three years. Wilkerson has been handling K-9s for six years and retired his previous dog.
The Tupelo Police Department has four K-9s.