CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — It’s week four of training for the new K9 troopers with Virginia State Police.
You may remember Liberty and Justice, a brother and sister bloodhound duo named after a social media campaign that launched in November.
The pups, along with another recruit Gus, work alongside Trooper Brian Butchyk, who heads the bloodhound program for state police.
“Their nose is like unbelievably sensitive,” Trooper Butchyk said. “They can pick up scents that are 24 hours old.”
After 13 weeks, these four-legged crime fighters will be officially working as search dogs to find missing persons and escaped inmates.
But for now, the dogs are essentially playing “hide and seek” with troopers.
Someone will leave an article of clothing on the ground. The bloodhound will sniff, pick up their scent and then begin to search for the subject.
The person hiding will leave scuff marks in the woods to make a trail, so the other troopers know where he or she went.
Once they find their target, the dogs get rewarded with treats and are shown a lot of love from their handler.
It’s not just the dogs who are training, but the troopers too. Once the dogs graduate, they will live full-time with their handler.
“They learn the dog, the dog learns them,” Trooper Butchyk said. “We figure out which puppy fits the personality of the handler better.”
Each dog has its own personality.
“Liberty loves to be loved. She is very sweet. Very shy, very curious,” Trooper Butchyk said.
Liberty is assigned to Trooper James Brooks in the Chesapeake Division. Gus will stick with Trooper Butchyk at the Virginia State Police Academy, he works with Trooper Enzo Diaz too who’s K9 Trooper Stella’s handler.
Justice is working with Trooper David Jackson in the Richmond Division.
“Justice is high speed, loves to work. I’m kind of the same way,” Trooper Jackson said.
Jackson’s whole family can’t wait until Justice comes home.
“I also have three kids and they ask me every day can I get a police dog,” Trooper Jackson said. “My dad calls me everyday and asks me how Justice is doing, the whole family is just in love with the idea of me having a canine partner.”
But these dogs aren’t pets. Handlers and their K9 learn to work as a team.
“He can’t talk so, his body movements are how I decide what he’s trying to tell me,” Trooper Jackson explained. “Where he’s kind of apprehensive about crossing it, he’s look back at me and say, ‘he went this way, but I don’t know if I should jump over this or go in this creek.’ That’s where we got to work together and I can tell him, ‘hey buddy, it’s okay I’m going with you.’”
The pups have nine weeks left of training before they’re on the job. The dogs are donated to state police. The departments cover the costs for food, gear and veterinary bills.
There are roughly 60 K9 troopers in Virginia, assigned to tracking, patrol, as well as narcotics and explosive detection.
Liberty and Justice also have brothers “in blue.” Maverick is with the Carroll County, Va. Sheriff’s Office and Cole is with the Logan County Sheriff’s Office in West Virginia.
For the pups, it’s a treat to serve.