Drug Buster

The newest member of the Bay Minette police force is tall, dark and good looking — right down to the pink panting tongue and warm shiny fur.
Buster, a 4-year-old chocolate lab, is officer Kevin Gandy's new K-9 partner and Bay Minette's first narcotics detection dog.

"We bought him from a trainer at the Mobile County Sheriff's Office around early May," said Gandy, who was just named Officer of the Month for the second time this year. He said the first month he spent with Buster was spent getting to know and bonding with the 4-year-old chocolate lab.

"(Then) I went to the Mobile County Sheriff's Office's training facility for two weeks, 80 hours of training," Gandy said. He said Buster was already trained.

When money and assets are seized during a drug arrest, they are held for evidence, then relinquished to the state, which in turn liquidates them and returns them to the arresting agency. That money can then be used for drug enforcement-related items, including funding for a narcotics detection dog.

Gandy said Teresa's BBQ had donated money that paid for a fence for Buster and said the mayor and council members have been very supportive as well.

"With all the seizures he's made he's already paid for himself," Gandy said. He said Buster has proven to be an outstanding narcotics detection dog, allowing for multiple drug seizures since he was put into service in early June.

"The last one he found 19 crack rocks hidden in a chapstick bottle concealed in a purse inside a vehicle," Gandy said.

As if to validate his handler's statement, Buster pawed at a seat in a truck at Taylor's Towing, where the two do their training. The dog had hit on a scent that had been there two years.

Gandy said the hardest part about his training and working with Buster was learning his style of alerting to the presence of drugs.

"He's an aggressive alerter," Gandy said. "he paws at the odor. When searching a vehicle, he will paw at it and that means it is positive for narcotics," he said.

"I am steadily learning every day. His ears square up, his tail wags. I watch him throughout the whole search, I watch his ears, watch his head turn," he said.

Gandy said he and Bay Minette Chief Michael Rowland had been discussing a K-9 unit for a long time, but were unable to fund it. The officer said he wanted the dog for obvious purposes — "to get as much dope as we can."

"We're trying to clean up Bay Minette. We have a heavy pattern of drugs in certain areas. We're trying to clean up those areas," he said.

Right now he said they are focusing on traffic, but said Buster is not introduced to a traffic stop unless there is reason to believe drugs are present.

"He's not brought out unless there are indicators of narcotics, such as individual history of narcotics arrests, air fresheners, things like that," he said.

He said he and Buster train two to three times a week, and must log every hour trained for certification purposes. While they train mostly in cars, they have also trained in houses, in and around the police department and other places that might be encountered.

"I'm also on call. The guys know they can call me anytime and I'll bring Buster out," Gandy said. He said they also assist the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office and have assisted the BCSO's drug task force.

August will prove to be a busy month for the two officers, with a demonstration at the annual Youth Police Academy, which starts Saturday, and occasional visits to the schools.

"We'll be in the schools as well, though primarily at the high school," Gandy said. "He's a great tool in the department."

Rowland said Gandy's outstanding performance as an officer and K-9 handler are what garnered him a second term as Officer of the Month.

"During the month of June, you again showed yourself to be an outstanding asset to the Bay Minette Police Department's enforcement efforts," he said in a certificate for Gandy.

He said Gandy had answered 133 calls, made four felony arrests, three misdemeanor arrests and issued 24 traffic citations.

He said the officers performance as a K-9 handler also deserved recognition.

"You have been involved with a variety of drug cases and assisted a number of officers on other shifts during call-outs in which evidence of narcotics were later found by your K-9 partner," Rowland continued.

"Your efforts to work in collaboration with other officers as a team have brought the Bay Minette Police Department into a much higher profile within our community and contributed greatly to the success of the department's street-level drug interdiction efforts.

"Your actions have helped to foster an increased sense of cooperation among the various patrol shifts and provides a positive image for the citizens of Bay Minette."

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