This year, Putnamville Correctional Facility's K-9 Unit (Indiana State Farm) celebrates 30 years of service not only to the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) but also to the people of Indiana.
In the work of trailing, narcotic detection, tobacco detection and crowd control, the dogs of the Putnamville Facility K-9 Unit have made a positive difference in the lives of countless Hoosiers over three decades.
To achieve success, K-9 units not only need good dogs, they also need good handlers. Those familiar with this branch of law enforcement know dedicated correctional officers must tirelessly work with their animals in order to effectively master each assigned task.
Often K-9 teams are called into extremely stressful situations. Whether it is locating a lost child in a vast area such as Hoosier National Forest, or trailing a suspect through alleys and backyards, or finding tobacco or narcotics in a school setting, or providing crowd control for a prison compound, K-9 units approach each mission with a confidence that training and experience provides.
It takes many months of preparation for K-9 teams to become valuable. Dogs must be certified in obedience and then in advanced obedience. K-9 animals also must be trained to trail or to alert on tobacco or narcotics.
Further, some dogs must be trained in crowd-control techniques. Because extensive preparation is necessary, handlers take their dogs into every possible environment to practice for any future unknown emergency. That means going out into all kinds of weather and working in every conceivable location.
But devoted service has its reward.
"Our correctional facility's K-9 staff has worked with several outside agencies and the service has provided its own reward. It's an honor to respond to those in need," Putnamville Assistant Superintendent T. Phegley said.
"It is the handshake of appreciation given by another law enforcement officer when a suspect is located or the quiet thank-you given by a high school safety officer when a drug sweep concludes. The interaction with grade school children is also gratifying," Phegley added.
Over the years, the Putnamville Correctional Facility's K-9 unit has received numerous life-saving awards. Usually, it results from a child or disoriented adult being found.
In inter-agency work, the Putnamville Correctional Facility unit has also been called to help the FBI as well as Ohio law enforcement departments.
The history goes back to 1981 when a group of Putnamville officers realized how trained dogs could assist in a variety of search and crowd-control tasks.
Current IDOC Pendleton Supt. Keith Butts notes that "total dedication and relentless effort to be the very best we could be" was the theme as the K-9 unit began.
Since that first day in 1981, the commitment to excellence continues.