• 61°

Sheriff#8217;s Office adds Mallinois

Most dogs have collars and some even have a small wardrobe to parade around in, but Hemi, the Belgian Malinois has something that sets him apart from the vast majority of his canine counterparts: a badge.

Hemi is the newest member of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office and has been assigned as a K-9 partner to School Resource Officer Charles Hammonds.

Together, Hammonds and Hemi are making their collective presence known in area schools.

“This is an extra tool law enforcement has in keeping drugs out of schools and away from our students. This helps to provide a better and safer learning environment,” Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jeff Lawless said. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the schools.”

Lawrence County Juvenile Court Judge David Payne agreed.

“From the juvenile court’s perspective, this is a prevention effort in the schools,” Payne said. “We think there are a lot of positive things going on with our kids and we don’t want to imply we only have problems with them. But a few kids are making decisions that are not positive. In court, we see a lot of drug-related issues and these are some of our most serious problems. So we look at this dog from a prevention perspective. Charles’ role as a school resource officer is to encourage safe and drug-free schools.”

Though Hemi may have been hired to take a bite out of drug crime, he will not take a bite out of the county’s general fund budget.

Payne emphasized the dog was paid for through grants, such as the State Department of Youth Services grant his office received. When grants are applied for, a specific purpose must be stated on the application and the money obtained must be used for that specific purpose and nothing else.

A grant obtained for a sheriff’s office K-9 dog, for instance, may not be used to pay the county’s electric bill or give someone a pay raise.

For Hemi, his employment, so to speak, at the sheriff’s office is a new chapter in a short life that has had its ups and downs.

Hammonds said 18-month-old Hemi had been struck by a car and taken to a dog pound. A police officer visiting the pound spotted Hemi and thought he had potential. He was trained at the Police Dog Services of Mason, the agency from which the sheriff’s office acquired him.