When it comes to catching crooks, dogs truly are an officer's best friend.
Cape Girardeau was the host of the 10th annual Missouri Police Canine Association conference this week. Canine officers and their handlers from across the state, including St. Louis, Columbia and Springfield, attended the conference.
Before a crowd of about 450 people Thursday, the canine officers demonstrated their talents at the Shawnee Sports Complex.
Explosions, gunshots, and sirens didn't distract the dogs as they brought down faux criminals fleeing the scene in mock arrests.
"These dogs have huge drive," Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper Bill Oliver told the crowd.
About 28 dogs were on hand Thursday night and ran through various exercises, including drug and bomb detection and attacks, while Oliver explained several nuances of police dog procedure.
The presentation started off with a bang as a suspect vehicle led three Cape Girardeau police squad cars on a brief chase around a soccer field as flash bombs exploded and a helicopter hovered above the action.
The two "suspects" leapt from their vehicle but were quickly caught when officers sent their dogs after them.
For drug and bomb detection, Oliver pointed out the difference between the dogs' reactions. For bombs, the dog will sniff out the explosives and tell the handler where it's located by sitting down. But for some drug searches, the dogs will be aggressive and tear apart whatever is holding the narcotics.
The dogs also went through several different attack scenarios, some with the dogs wearing a muzzle and some involving an offender wearing a protective arm sleeve that the dogs sank their teeth into.
"Sometimes they don't want to let go," Oliver said when one particular dog, Speedy, refused to release his suspect.
In one of the sillier scenarios, a male trooper wearing a long wig and a dress while carrying a purse and rolling suitcase walked down the length of the crowd. Suddenly, a thief snatched the purse away.
To the shock of the crowd, the trooper opened his rolling suitcase to reveal a canine officer, who quickly ran after and nabbed the purse snatcher.
For Madilyn Freeman, 8, that surprise was her favorite part of the show.
"I thought he had a bomb," instead of a dog in the suitcase, she said.
The event closed with another police chase, featuring the Sikeston Special Operations Group, suspects armed with blank-loaded guns, and a helicopter landing on the field.
Sean Carr, 8, said with a wide grin that he loved watching the helicopter land and hoped to someday be a canine officer who flies helicopters.
"If my dad lets me," he said.
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