He’s trained well, he’s bold, he has a nose that won’t fail, and he just might be the cutest officer at the Washington County Detention Center.
Oh, and he’s a dog.
Murphy, a 2-year-old Czech-born German Shepherd, started working at the jail in August after a nine-week training course with his handler, Lt. Perry Allen. While not unheard of for a detention center to have a regular K9 unit, Sheriff Ed Graybeal said he believes Murphy is the first in the region.
After Graybeal and other administrators researched the idea of adding a K9 to the jail staff, it didn’t take long for the idea to sell.
“It made so much sense that we just had to do it,” Graybeal said last week as Murphy played with a tennis ball at Allen’s feet.
Both men said Murphy’s presence has been a deterrent for inmates who think they can sneak drugs into the jail — particularly weekenders who report on Friday night and are released on Sunday to serve shorter sentences.
Murphy is trained for article searches and drug detection, including heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, crack cocaine and powder cocaine.
Allen is pretty particular about who can have contact with Murphy, but Maj. Brenda Downes said the dog has really blended in with the surroundings and “he’s one of us.”
Except, of course, the day she had a piece of pizza in her hand and Murphy jumped up onto her chest trying to snatch it. “I’m not sure whose eyes were the biggest — mine or Lt. Allen’s,” Downes said. “It’s funny now, and I don’t eat pizza around Murphy anymore,” she said with a laugh.
That and a few issues Murphy had with a couple of computer cords are the only mishaps he’s had.
Allen said he takes Murphy with him throughout the jail and conducts perimeter checks as well. There have also been a few “shake downs,” or complete searches of inmate cells, and Murphy has found drugs hidden by inmates.
It’s apparent Murphy has a playful side, but Allen said when it’s time to work, his four-legged partner flips a switch. And even though Murphy has an approachable demeanor, inmates at the jail are not allowed to interact with him.
“He has to listen to me,” Allen said. And Murphy’s position is one of acting as a deterrent to inmates who might want to break the rules.
“It’s made a huge difference,” Graybeal said. “They just do so much you and I can’t do.”
Graybeal said he also believes that if the department had Murphy in 2009 when there was an uprising among inmates at the jail, it could have been resolved even more quickly or prevented altogether just by inmates knowing the dog was there.
In addition to working a regular rotating shift at the jail, Murphy has also had some training on the road with patrol, Allen said. He’s assisted officers with detecting narcotics in vehicles and with article searches.