New narcotics dog getting high marks

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 12, 2013 

The Kennewick Police Department's new specialized police dog already has helped area law enforcement find more than 3 pounds of meth and a stolen firearm.

Bear, the Tri-Cities' first fully-certified narcotics K-9, was introduced to the Kennewick City Council on Tuesday.

Bear and his handler, Officer Isaac Merkl, have only been in service as a narcotics K-9 team for two months, said Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg.

And in that time, Merkl said he and Bear have had 11 finds during the 24 times they have been called out.

Bear's sole purpose is to find heroin, crack, cocaine and meth by using his nose, Merkl said.

On one recent deployment, Bear led law enforcement to a little more than 3 pounds of meth hidden in a tire underneath a vehicle, Merkl said.

Once Bear signaled to his handler, Merkl said officers looked under the vehicle and noticed dirt everywhere except on the spare tire.

"He helps us focus on the right areas," he said.

In another instance, Bear's work helped law enforcement get a search warrant for a vehicle, resulting in the discovery of 3 ounces of meth and a stolen firearm, Merkl said

Bear also helped an investigation after he helped officers determine about $2,400 in U.S. currency was saturated with the odor of a controlled substance, he said.

Bear has a drive to hunt for narcotics. While he knows how to sit, Merkl said they didn't work too much on obedience because what is important is for Bear to be true to his nose.

Merkl and Bear were certified by the state as a narcotics K-9 detection team on June 22, after seven weeks of training, Merkl said.

The $3,500 cost for Bear and the training was paid for using money seized in drug investigations, Hohenberg said.

He told council he expects to see a good return on investment from the team, which will help police in their efforts to keep Kennewick safe.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512;

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