Henry County Police retires K-9 Officer


Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent



Retirement.

For some, it could mean having more time to take vacations, spend time with family or volunteer in the community.



Officer Stephen Torbush with retired K-9 officer, Pipo. Special photo



For one retiring police officer, however, retirement could just as easily mean curling up on the living room floor with a water bowl and a hefty stash of dog treats.

The Henry County Board of Commissioners recently appro-ved a request by the Henry County Police Department to retire one of its K-9 officers, a Belgian Malinois dog named Pipo. The announcement came during the board’s June 16 meeting.

Pipo, a 10-year-old male, worked on narcotics cases at the police department for six years. Officer Stephen Torbush, the dog’s handler for the last two years, says Pipo has played an important role in drug-related investigations for the department.

“Pipo has been used many times, both in-house as well as federal cases,” says Torbush. “The largest personal narcotic seizure was two kilos of crystal meth with a street value of roughly $200,000, during a traffic stop. Pipo has been responsible for the location and apprehension of eight felons.”

County officials report that Pipo was responsible for seizing more than $5 million in drugs and money for the police department, and was instrumental in the arrests of hundreds of criminals over the years.

The average life span of a Belgian Malinois is about 10-14 years. Torbush says dogs in the K-9 unit perform free-air sniffs of vehicles where police suspect contraband to be located.

“All Henry County Police K-9s are trained in the detection of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin as well as the derivatives of these narcotics,” he said.

Pipo will stay at home with Torbush and his family in the dog’s retirement, at a cost of $1 a year for 10 years. Torbush says he expects to be working with a new dog in the near future.

“We are currently waiting for the start of the next training class, where I will pick up the new dog,” he says.

Police Capt. Joey Smith says the Belgian Malinois breed is beneficial for the type of work required in the unit. Currently, the police department has four handlers and a supervisor in its K-9 Unit. Smith says the dogs are trained “to operate as a team” with their handlers.

“The dog has the ability to detect odors that a human’s nose cannot,” he says. “The odor-processing ability in a canine is believed to be one of the highest on earth. The dogs are also utilized to complete tasks that have the potential of causing harm to police officers.”

“Without going into too much detail, the dogs are trained in narcotic detection, handler protection and the ability to track suspects,” continues Smith. “The Belgian Malinois is a very high-drive dog that has typically a smaller frame than a German Shepherd dog. Typically the Malinois is not prone to the health issues such as hip dysplasia that German Shepherds are. This greatly increases the expected work life of the dog.”

Smith added that Belgian Malinois dogs are also less expensive than German Shepherds of the same caliber.

During the June 16 BOC meeting, District IV Commissioner Blake Prince expressed his appreciation to the K-9 unit of the police department and read a letter of appreciation to the K-9 Unit for their contributions to the area and its residents.

“The value of a quality K-9 Unit often goes unnoticed, so I want to express my sincerest appreciation to the Henry County Police Department, its leaders and the Special Operations Division K-9 Unit for their outstanding police work in keeping Henry County safe,” says Prince.

For more information on the Henry County Police Department and the Special Operations Division K-9 Unit visit www.henrycounty-ga.org.