Police seek to add K-9 to elite group
Baton Rouge city police’s new elite crime-fighting unit needs its own police dog to combat north Baton Rouge drug dealers who have gotten craftier hiding their dope, the unit’s leader said Friday.
“It’s absolutely essential,” said Sgt. Herbert “Tweety” Anny, director of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination, or BRAVE, unit.
Police often have trouble finding street corner dealers’ drugs, as they are usually hidden in underwear, mouths, soda cans, food, trash piles or sewer drains, Anny said.
“They know police can’t get it, but it’s close enough to make a sale,” he said.
The BRAVE project is a new violent crime intervention plan aimed at violent offenders as well as drug offenders in the city’s 70805 ZIP code, an area generally bounded by Airline Highway to the north and the east, the Mississippi River to the west and Choctaw Drive to the south.
The unit’s officers are Anny, Sgt. Robert McGarner, Cpl. Lorenzo Coleman, Cpl. Troy Lawrence, Officer Brad Bickham and Officer Luke Cowart. East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux has assigned 25 deputies to supplement the work of the BRAVE unit and granted the five police officers parishwide jurisdiction.
In recent community meetings with police, residents have aired their frustrations with seeing the same drug dealers on the same street corners night after night.
At a time when the BRAVE unit is trying to encourage north Baton Rouge residents to tip them off to such criminal activity, it is especially urgent that the patrol team acquires a dog to more effectively follow through on those tips, Anny said.
The Metro Council is expected to approve a $12,500 grant from Irene W. and C.B Pennington Foundation to fund a police dog for the BRAVE division sometime in the upcoming weeks, said police Lt. Todd Lee.
Anny said many drug dealers are unfazed when they see a police car pull up to their corner because they know police usually only use dogs to execute search warrants or search for burglars.
The dealers tend to either remain where they are because they know they’ve hidden the dope well enough, or they take off running because they know they can outrun the officer, Anny said.
“Most of the time the bad guys see the out-of-shape cop and think, ‘Man, he’s 50 years old, I could outrun him,’ ” Anny said. “But if you’re holding that dog, it’s like, ‘Wow. I know I can’t outrun that dog and I don’t feel like getting bit today.’ ”
Police dogs also allow officers to obtain probable cause in cases where they have no called-in tips, Anny said.
Bickham was chosen to be the new dog’s handler because he has prior experience working with police dogs. That knowledge base should cut down on training time, Lee said.
“We got very fortunate in that aspect,” Lee said, noting it will probably be a few months before the dog hits the streets, due to the process of approving the funds, acquiring the dog and training it.
The Pennington family foundation has donated money for several of the Police Department’s 15 K-9s in the past, Lee said.
Lori J. Bertman, president and CEO of the Irene W. and C.B Pennington Foundation, said in an email the donation is “one of the many grants we will make this year to meet our mission in improving the quality of life for children and families in the Greater Baton Rouge area.”
“The Pennington Family Foundation supports a number of community organizations involved in the BRAVE project including the city, Career Academy, Big Buddy, the Truancy Center, and Together Baton Rouge,” she wrote.