Thanks to a generous donation from a local business the Utah County Jail has established a Corrections K9 unit to help reduce the introduction of drugs and other contraband into the jail.
In 2014 Sheriff Jim Tracy and Chief Deputy Darin Durfey initiated discussions about beginning a Corrections K9 Unit for the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Bureau. Those discussions began in earnest in the later part of 2016. A proposal was submitted and approval was granted to establish a Corrections K9 Unit for the jail. The reason for this program is that a common problem in any Corrections setting is the introduction of contraband, drugs and weapons, into a facility by arrested individuals who secret those items on or in their person. These items create serious risk for staff and inmates alike. The risk of injury from weapons is obvious. And while the risk from drugs may seem to be primarily overdose, another risk is that drugs can be used to create leverage from one inmate over another.
Drugs are introduced into correctional settings by inmates who may smuggle them in, but they also come in through the mail. One of the responsibilities of Corrections Deputies and civilian staff is to conduct regular searches of inmates, facilities, and mail. When done by staff members this becomes a demanding effort that takes time and the attention of many employees. And even with this effort there are areas that are difficult to reach or see. With mail it is a very difficult task to search every piece of mail that comes to the jail. Because of the logistical limitations of conducting searches with Deputies and civilian staff, inmates recognize that smuggling contraband carries an acceptable risk of being caught.
The value of having a K9 is that tasks that take as many as eight to ten Deputies or civilian staff can be done with one K9 and just a couple of staff. And the time it takes to conduct a search with a K9 is dramatically reduced in comparison to searches by hand. Jails and prisons across the country that have established K9 units have seen a dramatic reduction in the amount of contraband that is introduced to secure facilities.
Through the Jail Industries Program at the Utah County Jail, Universal Industrial Sales, a partner that provides work opportunities to inmates, has made a donation to help get the Corrections K9 Unit established. Additionally the first K9 procured for use at the Utah County Jail came from Rescue Rovers. This K9, Reikko, a one and half year old male, is a Belgian Malinois that was taken to Rescue Rovers after the owners determined that the temperament of this dog was not what they needed.
This particular breed is commonly used in law enforcement applications but the general personality of these dogs is not usually appropriate to be used as a family pet. And while most K9's in law enforcement are dual purpose, meaning they are used for finding drugs and for apprehending criminals, the Utah County Jail K9 will be a single purpose dog. This means the dog will only be trained to detect drugs.
Because Universal Industrial Sales has made a generous donation for this program, and because Reikko came from Rescue Rovers, there will be no taxpayer impact or taxpayer funds used to operate this program for the first year. The Deputy assigned to be the handler for Reikko works in the jail and will remain in his regular assignment but will have K9 as an additional responsibility.
The Utah County Sheriff’s Office is very interested in sharing information about this new program with the public. Chief Deputy Darin Durfey, Corrections Bureau Commander, is available to talk to any members of the media who would be interested in reporting on this story and in meeting Reikko.
For questions contact Sergeant Spencer Cannon, Public Information Officer, Utah County Sheriff’s Office. (801)404-1912. Twitter: SGTCannonPIO