St. Marys Police Department Talks About K9 Grant Win
The 2017 K9 Grant had 8 winners, from all over the US. In this blog we head south, all the way down to Georgia, where we pay a visit to our third place winners, St. Marys Police Department. So take a break from the work week and enjoy our chat with Lt. Brock and the K9 duo of Bak and Tebow.
St. Marys is a small Georgia town; there are 30 law enforcement officers covering the 16 square miles where over 18,000 citizens live. “We are as far southwest as you can go before you hit Florida or the ocean,” explains Uniformed Patrol Commander Lt. Shannon Brock of the St. Marys Police Department. “We have cemented a good relationship with the community. We’ve worked hard, trained hard, and in turn we’ve received lots of support and praise.”
Life in a Southern Town
As with many small towns, drugs are the most common problem facing St. Marys. “We also struggle with property crime,” Lt. Brock said. “Usually it’s teens who steal things to pay for narcotics. However, we’ve worked to keep our crime rate low, and overall we’ve been very successful. There has been a drastic reduction in violent crimes and shootings.”
And Lt. Brock credits K9 officers Tebow and Bak for a large part of the success: “There is a clear difference in the drug population, thanks to the dogs. People are calmer because they know we will be out with the K9s. We post stories to our Facebook page, and visit the local library and school events. We get the dogs in the schools to educate children and they love them.”
Before the K9 Grant, St. Marys had never heard of Aftermath Services. “We were nominated for the grant by a community member. We were skeptical at first, but we researched it and we quickly realized it would be a great opportunity for our department.” The department turned to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to secure their third place win. “We were also interviewed by two local radio stations,” Lt. Brock reports.
The Value of a Dog
St Marys’ K9 unit has been a part of the community for nearly a decade. In 2007, the department received a $40,000 grant to establish the unit, and the two dogs joined the force over the next two years. “We retrofit two units within the department to make them k9 units,” said Lt. Brock. For St. Marys, having a K9 unit led to an increase in community support. “K9s help to humanize the officers. Not only are they out there helping people, but they give the community something to relate to.”
Tebow is an 8 year old German Shephard from the Czech Republic, and Bak is a 9 and a half year old German Shephard from Germany. K9 Bak lives at home with Lt. Brock and his family, including a young golden retriever. “They have fun together. He’s very good with people and loves attention, but he barks a lot in the car because it’s his territory.”
K9 Tebow has lived with Corporal Josh Huffmon for 4 years. “He acts like your everyday 2 year old. He is young at heart and loves to play. He is a very social dog and loves when we go to schools and visit kids. The family has another dog as well, and they play together on occasion.”
Retirement and Beyond
When asked what the department would use their $3000 Aftermath K9 Grant for, Lt. Brock responded that it would be used to maintain the department’s current K9 Unit: “Our dogs are getting older and will be retiring soon. We will need to get new dogs so Tebow and Bak can retire in style.”
At the end of the interview, Lt. Brock shared a few stories about the dynamic duo: “2 months ago I was training another officer so I had to leave Bak at home. My wife sent me a picture of him sitting with his nose pressed against the window, looking out for me. She said he was there for over an hour, staring out the window, waiting for me to come home. It just shows you how much of a bond you make with a K9.”
Of Huffmon’s partner, he said the following: “Tebow is pretty much one of the 3 stooges. He had a bad experience with his first handler where they went to an interstate welcome center and he picked up on a scent, which led him to a downed power line that zapped him. Luckily he didn’t get hurt! And another time he picked up on a scent that he tracked…straight to a hornets’ nest. Tebow doesn’t have the best luck sometimes, but he always seems to come out on top.”
Last month, Aftermath gave away over $15,000 in support of K9 units nationwide. In its 6th year, the annual K9 Competition attracted thousands of departments, while promoting the benefits and importance of these unique working animals. Throughout the year, Aftermath also visits conferences and sponsors giveaways to show gratitude to the men and women of law enforcement, whose daily efforts continue to improve our communities and keep them safe.