For the next couple of months, Senatobia will see several new furry faces in the form of police canines and their handlers around town as they train to become equipped for service in law enforcement. For the first time in the history of the program, Senatobia Police Department is hosting a Basic Law Enforcement Handler’s course.
The 8-week program sponsored by Mississippi Law Enforcement Officer’s Association (MLEOA) began Monday, Jan. 10 and will run through March 3, 2022. The training is being offered at no cost to the MLEOA member participants.
The inaugural class hosts 11 canines and their handlers to learn a variety of skills to prepare them for real world service in their various departments. Included in the curriculum is training on detection (narcotics and explosives), obedience/control, patrol activities, tracking/area search, evidence recovery, criminal apprehension, K9 Case Law, K9 First Aid and Realistic Scenario Training Events.
“These are green dogs,” said lead instructor of the class, Officer Will Cunningham of SPD. “Meaning they are new and never trained before.”
Cunningham is currently in his 25th year in Law Enforcement and has been involved with canines for 15 of those years. He is joined by instructors Tim Harris of Hernando, CJ Schuetz of Horn Lake and Dustin Tutor of Tupelo.
Various businesses and public parks around Senatobia and the surrounding areas will provide settings for the trainings including Sycamore Park and Senatobia-Tate County Alternative School.
“Our goal is to get them street ready,” said Cunningham. “They need to be ready to serve when they leave this class. We’ll be changing things up on them because the dogs are smart, and they’ll cheat if we go to the same location everyday.”
The departments being represented are mostly located in Mississippi, but participants from as far as Arkansas are also members of the class. Senatobia’s Officer Christian Subia with his 4-legged partner, Thor, is also enrolled in the training.
“I am honored to have been asked by the MLEOA to be the head trainer for this class. I have been very fortunate in my career to have excellent trainers that have passed knowledge unto me and allowed me to be successful in my canine career. This class represents an excellent opportunity to pass the torch. Working with canines is one of the most challenging and rewarding opportunities in a Police Officers career.” said Cunningham. “It requires countless hours of behind the scenes training to be able to perform in a positive manner on the streets. Canines and their handlers are involved in so many aspects of modern day law enforcement. Canines are locating tools, being that of bombs, narcotics, evidence, and people. They are an invaluable resource and I am extremely pleased to help train these new dog teams. These teams will go through an eight week course and will be tested throughout to hopefully graduate and be certified by a national canine registry. This would not be possible without the help of the other three assisting trainers and the MLEOA.”
At the conclusion of the training, officers and their canines will travel to Tupelo to participate in a certification program offered by MLEOA. The 3-day conference will result in certification from the National Narcotics Detector Dog Association (NNDDA). Upon certification from the NNDDA, the officers will be fully equipped to return to their departments and better serve their communities.