SPEARFISH, SD – The newest member of the Spearfish Police Department is originally from Belgium.
Davos, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, is a narcotics detection dog, meaning he is trained to alert to the presence of the odor of drugs.
Corporal Chris Woods, Davos’ handler, explained South Dakota has some of the more rigorous training and certification requirements for police service dogs in the nation, and the two are currently attending a six-week South Dakota Police Service Dog certification course for narcotics detection which includes intensive training for both the handler and the dog. The training includes classroom sessions on canine behavior, case law, and how the handler can best read their dog, for example, and there are several hours of practical “deployment” sessions every day.
The addition of Davos to the Spearfish Police Department jumpstarts the K9 program which the department had in the 1990s. Spearfish command staff was working to bring back a K9 program following the need for and interest in a program, as well as the recent creation of a drug task force in the Northern Hills, the Unified Narcotic Enforcement Team North (UNET-N). At the same time, the Whitewood Police Department was discontinuing its program, where Davos had been stationed, so conversations ensued to see if it would be possible to transfer the drug detection dog to Spearfish. The departments partnered to make a smooth transition for Davos, who, while certified, must be certified with his new partner.
Davos is being trained to alert to the presence of the odor of drugs in a wide array of vehicles, buildings, and other spaces,” Corporal Woods explained, adding to receive certification in South Dakota and be able to legally work, the canine and handler must both pass as a team. Once the team passes certification, they must maintain a minimum number of monthly training hours and pass re-certification every year to remain available for law enforcement work.
Corporal Woods said he has long desired to add K9 handler to his list of experiences. Hired as a patrol officer by the department in 2019 and promoted to corporal in 2022, Corporal Woods serves as an active threat instructor, defensive tactics instructor, and patrol training officer, and is a certified drug recognition expert. He has previous experience in the emergency medical and fire services and has worked alongside many dog-handler teams throughout his career, including his time in Jacksonville, Florida, working with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Department of Homeland Security Investigations, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).
Being a dog lover, I always found it impressive to watch these dogs work and the bond that developed between good dog-handler teams,” he said. “
The dogs I’ve worked around have been amazing tools for their specific trades whether that be detection, search and rescue, or apprehension.”
Corporal Woods said the training he and Davos are attending has been going well.
Davos is a machine and does not typically slow down,” he said. “
His drives for the work are amazingly high.”
Corporal Woods is excited to have the opportunity and is looking forward to working with Davos in the community once they have completed the certification course.
He is an amazing partner already, and I think we’re going to do some great work together,” he said. “
The drug problem across the nation grows worse each year, and I want to do everything I can to limit the effects of drugs in the Spearfish community. Having a canine partner as well trained as Davos will assist our agency in the fight against drugs in our area.”
Photo caption: Corporal Chris Woods and drug detection dog Davos are currently attending a six-week South Dakota Police Service Dog certification course for narcotics detection which includes intensive training for both the handler and the dog. Photo courtesy Rapid City Police Department K9 Unit