MERCEDES — Federal and local agencies were rivals yesterday in the third annual South Texas Police K-9 Competition held here at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show Grounds.
Rio Grande Valley law enforcement agencies and others along with their canines competed in timed narcotic article and vehicle searches, the obedience and confidence course and criminal apprehension.
The friendly competition began three years ago as a way for area law enforcement agencies to share training methods and ideas.
Marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine were hidden in items such as a medical scale and a water container, replicating what it might be like for the canines to search a building.
“If you compete, and your dog doesn’t do so well, that motivates you,” said Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office K-9 trainer Javier Solis.
Some of the trained dogs can uncover something as small as a marijuana seed hidden within a vehicle.
Patrol canines, like those with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office and local police departments, competed in the fast dog competition, in which competitors were ranked based on their speed before subduing a suited trainer playing the role of a suspect.
Bobbi, a canine with the Sheriff’s Office, took first place in the fast dog competition, just ahead of the canines with the Roma and the Live Oak police departments.
U.S. Border Patrol’s canine, Billy-B, was named top dog in the patrol competition.
A Belgian Malinois, named Mischa, and her handler Tim Behnke with U.S. Customs and Border Protection quickly ran the narcotic article and vehicle searches yesterday afternoon.
Mischa, a first-year competitor, was able to sniff out marijuana hidden inside a microwave where methamphetamine and cocaine were also hidden along the course. The course is timed, unlike in the field where law enforcement can more effectively search for drugs.
Mischa herself has stopped more than $1 million worth of drugs from being smuggled into the U.S. during her more than three years as a law enforcement K-9, according Behnke.
Not all canines are trained to accomplish the same tasks. Some can sniff out drugs, while others are not trained to subdue suspects.
“She finds concealed humans,” Behnke explained. “And she can track human beings too.”
Behnke and Mischa underwent a seven-week training course in Virginia prior to working together at multiple ports of entry in Brownsville. The two have been a team for three and a half years.
“It’s the best job in the world,” Benke said. “Working with an animal is awesome.”
Though Benke didn’t place in the vehicles search competition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s K-9 Coco and his handler Michael Hufham placed third.
The U.S. Border Patrol was awarded the Best K-9 Unit, while Lusy with Edinburg CISD Police Department took first in the articles search.
“It’s all about coming together,” said Solis. “It’s all about sharing ideas and then giving training to the dogs.”