2015-11-10 / Front Page

Owen County Sheriff’s Department Adds Behr The Canine To Its Ranks

by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer

Sheriff Sam Hobbs (left) and OCSD Deputy Ed Westgate, Jr. are shown with the department’s newest addition, Behr. (Staff Photo) Sheriff Sam Hobbs (left) and OCSD Deputy Ed Westgate, Jr. are shown with the department’s newest addition, Behr. (Staff Photo) Owen County’s newest K-9 officer, Behr, was ceremonially sworn in Thursday morning by Owen County Circuit Court Judge Lori Thatcher Quillen.

Behr’s partner and handler is Owen County Sheriff ’s Department (OCSD) Deputy Ed Westgate, Jr.

“I’m excited and can’t wait until we start training,” Westgate said, noting the three-year-old German Shepherd interacts well with he and his wife’s five children and the family’s other dogs.

“He’s pretty laid back,” he added. “I’ve kind of introduced him to the other dogs through fences – they all have their own enclosures. He doesn’t seem to know a stranger and I really like that, because I want to be able to go to the high school or any public place and not have an issue with him.”

OCSD Captain Detective Erich Teuton and Sheriff Hobbs agreed, saying Behr will help sniff out and curb local drug trafficking.

“We want to take the dog to the schools and introduce it to all the students. We want the kids to know it’s just another tool for the department to fight drug crime,” Hobbs said. “We are aggressively proceeding with our fight against drugs; we’ve taken some key people off of the streets already and we have several more to take off the streets. But, you have to have the tools in place in order to fight drug crime.”

The sheriff said while Westgate and Behr will likely patrol on second shift, the pair will also be available on an as-needed basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The oncall status for Westgate, though, won’t be an issue, as he also continues to drive for his family-owned wrecker service.

“He’s done an excellent job and has stepped up to the plate to work any shift for us and do anything we ask,” Hobb said. “He has impressed me, the captain, and chief, and we’re very thankful to have him on the department.”

Sheriff Hobbs said several local residents have expressed a willingness to donate in support of the K-9 program. The initial costs were paid for through monies remaining in the sheriff’s department’s K-9 fund.

“It’s a self-funded program. We’ll receive donations from private citizens, but nothing we’ll have to ask the county council for an appropriation,” he noted. “I know Mike and Nannette from Edward’s Farm Supply are on board with helping us with reduced rates on dog food and things like that.”

Westgate will take the remainder of 2015 to bond with Behr before beginning training in Bedford on January 2, 2016. The training, led by American Police Canine Association Master Trainer Mike Johnson, will last approximately two months.

“It will certify he and his dog in narcotics detection, as well as bite and aggression training,” Teuton said. “It will have limited tracking ability, which we’re doing because we have another individual with bloodhounds (Larry Frank), who will assist with tracking. We can leave the long-term tracking up to a guy who has a dog specialized in only tracking. I think it’s a good thing, because if you have a dog trained in too many areas, you’ll overwhelm the dog. Tracking is a very dedicated science.”

Having worked narcotics investigations for more than three years, Teuton knows the impact a K-9 can have on an investigation.

“A great department needs a good K-9 program. On search warrants a dog can find dope a lot easier and a lot quicker than I can,” he said. “A dog is also great as far as making entry on a search warrant... if there is any kind of danger, it’s always best to send a dog in first. It’s also a great tool during the search and detaining of people, or encouraging their cooperation.”

Hobbs, now nearly a full year into his first term in office, says he remains grateful and driven to produce one of the best sheriff’s departments the county has ever had.

“In the first 10 months, God has been good to us and the council and commissioners have worked hand-in-hand,” he added. “I’ve had well over 150 people come into my office and we’ve received a lot of good feedback from the people. We have had some complaints, and you’ll always have those, but I make sure we address those complaints. We are headed in right direction.”

Once fully trained, Behr and Deputy Westgate will join the ranks of other local and area K-9 officers and handlers, including Zeus and Deputy Town Marshal Ryan Bonebrake of the Spencer Police Department, who were recognized in 2013 as a level three certified trailing team by the American Police Canine Association. Zeus is certified in narcotics, tracking, and tactical obedience

Drogos and Indiana State Police (ISP) Corporal Allen Deel of the Bloomington Post also make their home in and patrol Owen County.

Czar and ISP Trooper Ian Portteus of the Putnamville Post also make their home in Owen County, but patrol neighboring Clay County.

To donate to the OCSD K-9 unit, contact the department at 812-829-4874, or visit in person at 291 Vandalia Avenue in Spencer.

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