Camden sheriff to seek drug dog


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, March 7, 2019

CAMDEN — The Camden Sheriff’s Office is seeking funding in next year’s county budget to purchase a police dog that officials say could be used not only to search for drugs and missing persons but also investigate a range of crimes.

Deputy Austin Browder pitched the idea of appropriating funds for a canine unit to the Camden Board of Commissioners at its regular meeting Monday night. Browder cited the growing problem of opioid abuse and overdoses, and the need to keep drugs out of schools, as compelling reasons for buying a dog for the Sheriff’s Office.

The start-up cost for a canine unit, according to information Browder provided, would be $18,200 for the dog, training, basic equipment, and food and medical care for the first year. The annual recurring cost would be about $4,000, Browder said.

“I think this is a very good opportunity for Camden County,” he said.

Camden Sheriff Kevin Jones said Tuesday that the dog is needed.

“This canine can be a great asset to our office and Camden County citizens to use as a tool to combat the opioid epidemic as well as other illegal substances that frequent our county and state,” he said. “It can be used to locate missing children and adults, as well as locating important evidence for criminal cases.”

Commissioner Clayton Riggs recalled that Camden previously had a law enforcement dog that was an effective resource for the Sheriff’s Office. However, the dog and its handler left the department after about a year and a half, he said.

Browder, who will serve as the dog’s handler if the county appropriates funding for one, responded that he and his wife are looking to put down roots in Camden.

“I foresee being here the life of the dog,” Browder said.

Responding to a question from Commissioner Ross Munro regarding how often school officials would allow the dog into the schools, Superintendent Joe Ferrell said the schools work closely with the Camden Sheriff’s Office and would cooperate with canine searches.

Ferrell said he already had spoken with Jones and Browder about ways the dog might be used in the schools.

“We’re absolutely willing to partner with them in any way,” Ferrell said.

Browder’s presentation cited a statement by Billie Berry, formerly the principal at Camden County High School and currently the chief human resources officer for school district, indicating that the high school’s students are great kids but that drugs still get into the school.

The Sheriff’s Office’s plan is to incorporate the dog into the D.A.R.E. (drug abuse resistance education) program in the schools, use the dog to conduct drug searches in connection with the drug-free schools initiative, and also make use of the dog in all kinds of criminal investigations, according to Browder.

Browder cited a number of potential uses for the canine, including searches for missing persons, locating injured people in the aftermath of a natural disaster, apprehending suspects and seizing controlled substances.

The use of the dog could also increase asset forfeitures — which benefit the school district — by increasing the effectiveness of drug searches, Browder said. The dog also would be a good community relations tool, making appearances at events in the community, he said.

Browder said the sheriff is not looking for a dog that is trained to bite. He said Jones was concerned about taking on the liability of a bite-trained dog.