Tahlequah Daily Press

Crime & Courts

August 29, 2013

TPD patrols going to the dogs

he first part in an ongoing series follows Tahlequah canine officer Bo and his handler as they patrol city streets looking for drugs.

TAHLEQUAH — jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com

Amidst a group of Tahlequah police officers, flashing red-and-blues, and car hoods covered in a sea of illegal substances, the last thing you might expect to hear is a high-pitched squeak.

But when Tahlequah Police Department canine officer Bo – a 3-year-old Dutch shepherd – is involved, the sound of his squeaky toy is the sign of a job well done.

“Everything has to be positive reinforcement,” said Tahlequah Officer Cory Keele, Bo’s handler.

During a 2 a.m. traffic stop Saturday, Keele took Bo around a vehicle that had been stopped by Officer Brandon Vick for a broken tail light. Keele walked around the car with Bo, and the canine’s demeanor changed. Within minutes, Keele and Vick had searched the car and removed meth pipes, tinfoil and small bags containing meth. They also seized a small amount of marijuana, including a warm joint.

Front-seat passenger Kenneth M. Littlejohn, 31, of Stilwell, took responsibility for all items officers initially found, so he was arrested for possession of a controlled dangerous substance and possession of paraphernalia.

Police also arrested the driver of the vehicle, 29-year-old Ashley D. Blair, of Bunch, for possession of a CDS and possession of a CDS without a valid prescription after finding two bags of a white, crystal-like substance and various pills in her purse.

Two other passengers were released, and the vehicle was impounded.

“Good job, Bo!” Keele exclaimed.

He hugged Bo, gave him some pats on the back, and reinforced the “good find” that had been made.

And then, the squeaky toy came out.

“He has to think it’s a game,” said Keele. “You put your vest on, you get a treat, you get loved on, and then it’s time to go back to work.”

Keele and Bo patrol the streets of Tahlequah regularly during the late-night, early-morning shift, but often find themselves assisting other officers throughout the day, or visiting with children at local schools.

In recent months, Bo and Keele have helped yank a load of methamphetamine and other narcotics from homes and vehicles across the city.

Bo also chased and captured a fleeing burglar earlier this month, then held him until officers were able to place the man in handcuffs.

Thanks to Vested Interest in K9s Inc., an all-volunteer charity, Bo now goes to work in a custom-fit, bullet-proof vest.

“If he was ever to get into a situation where he was shot at, his vitals are covered; or if someone had a knife and went to stab him, it’s stab-proof,” said Keele

 “It affords him the same protection it affords me as a police officer.”

Adjusting to the new vest may take Bo a little time and more training, but he stays so busy, the cover hardly gets in his way when it’s time to work.

Several hours before his Friday night shift began last week, Keele and Bo were  on the State Highway 51 bypass when they spotted a vehicle that was reported as having a reckless driver.

Keele eventually conducted a traffic stop and found 60-year-old Brenda Ferrell behind the wheel.

“I noticed that [she] could not sit still and was very talkative,” Keele said.

She and the passengers in the vehicle were asked to exit, and Bo went to work, sniffing around the Jeep.

When Bo approached the driver’s-side door, he gave a positive alert for Keele, who then searched and found Xanax pills and other unidentified pills in Ferrell’s wallet.

“I asked Ferrell about the pills, and she advised me she didn’t know she had them,” Keele said.

Ferrell was taken into custody for possession of a CDS.

By 5 a.m. Saturday, Keele and his four-legged partner had helped arrest four people for drug-related charges.

One was a Tulsa man whom police believe was delivering illegal substances to local homes shortly after 1 a.m. on Fox Street.

Keele said most drug finds involve meth or prescription pills that are being used without the prescription.

“We recovered some good product tonight,” Keele said as he prepared to head home last Saturday morning. “That resulted in a few more drugs being taken off the streets.”

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