The average age for an American college instructor is close to 50 years old. But on Tuesday, a group of students at the State University College of Technology at Delhi watched a demonstration from a guest who hasn’t even celebrated his second birthday.
Twenty-month old “Ozzie,” a German shepherd K-9 deputy with the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department, gave a demonstration for students in the college’s criminal justice program. Ozzie’s handler, Deputy John DeMeo, showed how Ozzie can locate hidden contraband by detecting the scent of narcotics and signalling their location inside a building and on a vehicle.
Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Scott Swazye and SUNY Police Chief Perri DeFreece teach the Criminal Justice class at Delhi.
“This is the first time a K-9 unit has given a demonstration for the class,” Swazye said.
Before the demonstration, students were given some background in K-9 policing.
“The lecture covered (Supreme Court decision) United States vs. Place,” said Swazye. “In 1983, the courts concluded that dog sniffing can trigger probable cause for a search.”
The dog and handler work together as a connected team. Ozzie is the sensor and Deputy DeMeo is the trainer and interpreter.
“I’m the sole caretaker and instructor of Ozzie,” said DeMeo. “I feed him, clean up after him, and give him water.”
Deputy DeMeo admitted they had a unique bond that requires trust.
“One of the first jobs we encountered after training occurred at 1:30 a.m.,” said DeMeo. “It was dark outside and Ozzie kept pulling me over to the other side of the vehicle. I finally took his lead and, using the flashlight, saw what Ozzie smelled: a bag of marijuana one of the suspects had dropped outside, hoping we wouldn’t find it in the car.”
DeMeo told the students that he has been with the sheriff’s department since 2004, and began campaigning for a K-9 unit a few years ago. Support from donors, including local businesses, helped foot the $7,000 bill for Ozzie to join the police force.
“Ozzie’s drive to learn is amazing. Training with him is a phenomenal experience,” said DeMeo. “However, continued training is necessary to maintain and improve skills.”
DeMeo referred to Ozzie as a “dual-purpose canine,” noting that he is trained to locate lost people as well as searching for drugs.
In April, the officer-canine team will train to work together to apprehend suspects.
“Ozzie has been trained to aggressively scratch when he locates contraband,” said Deputy DeMeo. “If you get pulled over by a team involving a K-9, and have something illegal hidden in the vehicle, and don’t want the vehicle to get torn up, I recommend telling the officers where the drugs are.”