Deputy Alan LeBel and Iro are Callaway County’s new K-9 unit. The pair hit the streets in early September and have already assisted in about a dozen incidents. Photo by Jenny Gray /Fulton Sun.

 

Callaway County’s newest law enforcement officer has four paws and a loud bark.

And while Iro may still occasionally act like a puppy, he is certifiably a serious officer of the law.

Iro recently went into service at the Callaway County Sheriff’s Department. His partner is Deputy Alan LeBel, an eight-year veteran of the department.

“He’s a 1 1/2-year-old German shepherd who is state and nationally accredited as a working police dog,” Sheriff Clay Chism said.

Iro and LeBel were jointly trained through the Boone County Sheriff Department’s K-9 program.

“It was a very intensive, three-month training program,” Chism said Tuesday. “They’ll still have to do routine training monthly at Boone County Sheriff’s office in Columbia.”

Iro responds to some Czech commands because he was born in the Czech Republic. He was imported to a specialized K-9 kennel in Pennsylvania and then into the hands of the Callaway County Sheriff’s Office. Iro went into full service Aug. 20.

“He has been used extensively in human tracking and drug investigations,” Chism said. “He’s already done great work. He’s been deployed 12 times in just two weeks of service.”

Iro is trained and certified in drugs, tracking, handler protection and criminal apprehension. He also does article searches. He will respond to the scent of drugs in several ways.

“He’ll have a head snap; his breathing will change,” LeBel said. “He’ll lock up and sit down and stare.”

As Callaway County’s only K-9 unit, LeBel and Iro are on call 24/7. Their ride is a black Ford SUV specially equipped for their needs.

“We did not have to add an additional vehicle,” Chism said. “We did have to purchase special equipment, but we allocated an existing vehicle.”

This is the first drug-sniffing dog the sheriff’s office has had.

“We were able to allocate funds through the normal budgetary fund,” Chism said. “It’s a self-sustaining program. It was, when I took over the office of sheriff Jan. 1, one of my main priorities to move the agency forward.”

Chism stressed Iro and LeBel are also available to help other agencies in Callaway County, such as Saturday’s assist to Fulton police.

“This is a sheriff’s office program, but we have make our K-9 fully accessible to any agency in Callaway County,” he added. “The dog can be used upon request (by law enforcement agencies and schools).”

In the past, K-9 teams responding to requests had to come from outside Callaway County.

“But they have their own work,” Chism said. “By having our own K-9 program, we can honor their requests. We will be able to expeditiously respond to the request of other law enforcement agencies or school districts.”

While Iro lives full time with LeBel and his family, he is not the family pet during off-work hours, said LeBel, who added he’s had family dogs in the past.

“If he’s not with me, he’s in his outside kennel or inside in his crate,” LeBel said. “He’s in my care at all time.”

If LeBel should become incapacitated and not be able to temporarily care for Iro, the dog can be boarded at the Boone County sheriff’s office’s K-9 kennel. His service as a police dog is expected to last six-eight years.

LeBel said becoming part of the K-9 team was a big career goal. For this pair, their play time activity is training, training and more training. Iro’s favorite toy is a short length of fire hose, but he loves his ball.

“When I got into law enforcement, one of the main things I wanted to do was become a K-9 officer,” LeBel said. “K-9s are one of the best tools.”

He said they can sniff out drugs, find missing people, chase suspects, provide protection and locate items dropped at crime scenes.

“And they can be deployed and recalled, like when a (running) suspect gives up,” LeBel said. “You can’t do that with a Taser. They’re just phenomenal tools for assisting us in investigations.”

By Jenny Gray | Fulton Sun