Jan. 29—When Daviess County Detention Center Sgt. Chris Hempfling's previous Belgian malinois, Jake, was ready for retirement after seven years of service, the jail began looking for a new K-9.
Last month, the jail's new Belgian malinois, Koda, reported for duty.
Koda and Hempfling patrol the halls, assist other agencies when they are transporting inmates and conduct searches for contraband in cells.
"A lot of people say, 'you're so lucky to be a K-9 handler,' " Hempfling said earlier this week.
But the job requires quite a bit of work, he said.
"We are required to train 16 hours a month to maintain our certification," Hempfling said.
Hempfling and Koda walk the halls, keeping order, when the inmates are out of their pods.
"He's very handler protective, to be sure, but I walk him around without a muzzle," Hempfling said. "I would put a muzzle on Jake."
Jailer Art Maglinger said the 18 month-old dog was purchased from Ronin Dog Training, which has centers in the Netherlands and Tennessee. The jail received a $3,000 scholarship from Ronin, which lowered the price of the dog to $3,000.
Koda was born in the Netherlands and made the trip to Kentucky to be paired with Hempfling.
Before joining the jail nine years ago, Hempfling was a bloodhound handler at Green River Correctional Complex in Central City. Dogs have been a regular part of Hempfling's life.
"I had a lot of dogs when I was a kid," Hempfling said. Hempfling was selected for the K-9 officer post by retired Jailer David Osborne. Even with his experience in canine handling, becoming the jail's K-9 officer was a lengthy process, he said.
"You have to be selected," Hempfling said. Koda lives with Hempfling and is never far away.
"You have to have that bond," he said. "We've been back since the 10th of December, and the longest I have been away from Koda is five hours."
Koda's nose can detect marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and crystal meth, which makes him useful when searching cells for contraband. Koda is also a tracker, with training in finding items discarded by fleeing suspects. Handler protection is also part of his training.
The breed is special.
"A lot of departments won't give a malinois to a first-time handler," Hempfling said.
Part of being a K-9 office is learning to read the dog's state of mind, Hempfling said.
"I was used to the malinois' temperament and behavior," he said. "Koda definitely has a lot of drive."
Koda and Hempfling train regularly with the K-9 officers at the Tell City Police Department. In addition to getting the required number of monthly training hours, all K-9 officers and their dogs have be to recertified every year for duty. Koda and Hempfling are certified by the American Police K-9 Association.
Being a K-9 officer "has kept me in law enforcement for the last 10 to 12 years," Hempfling said.
Koda is all business at the jail, but gets to be a regular dog at home, Hempfling said.
"I let him relax," Hempfling said. "He sits down on the floor with me and watches TV. He sits on my lap."
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse