Motorists passing by the Sevierville Police Department (SPD) Thursday night might have been startled by the sight of a police dog dragging a man from a vehicle by his arm. The man was not a criminal suspect; it was Lt. David Finchum being dragged from his car by Buck, a trained canine directed by Officer Brandon Perry of the K-9 unit.
The incident was a demonstration by the officers conducting the second class of the Citizens Police Academy. The CPA is a community outreach program implemented by the SPD.
The officers explained the training techniques and the effectiveness of the K-9 unit in the search for missing persons and the fight against drug trafficking.
Perry is the trainer and partner of Buck, a German shepherd that has been on the force for three years.
Finchum explained the process of training drug dogs to sniff out illegal substances. K-9 units typically have a ball in the unit which is used as a reward for the dogs. During training, dogs are taught to search for drugs that are hidden next to the ball. Once the drugs are detected, the dog is given the ball as a reward. The dog learns to associate the ball with the smell of drugs.
As a demonstration to the dog’s ability, the two officers escorted the class to the back parking lot of the police department and staged a traffic stop.
Finchum puts a protective sleeve on his left arm to prevent the crushing jaws of Buck from tearing into his flesh. He drove his own personal vehicle a short distance, followed by Perry who was driving a K-9 Unit with Buck.
Perry simulated a traffic stop with Finchum, who pulls into the rear parking lot. He then approaches the car and asks the driver to exit the vehicle. Finchum opens the door, then becomes argumentative and refuses to exit the car. Perry responds by threatening to release his dog.
At Perry’s command, Buck snarls and races toward Finchum’s vehicle and clamps his powerful jaws down on Finchum’s sleeved left arm, dragging the 220 pound officer from his car.
Buck pulled Finchum to the ground where he lay face down. As an indication of his strength, Buck tugs mightily at Finchum. With each tug he drags Finchum a few inches across the ground. At Perry’s command, Buck relinquishes his hold and is rewarded with a ball.
Finchum explains what the tugging Buck was doing is an instinctive action in which the dog is trying to drag his kill to the den.
“Over the past three years the department has spent approximately $15,000 training Buck,” said Perry. “But it was an investment that has paid for itself many times over.”
According to Perry, Buck has taken more than $1 million in illegal drugs off the streets in three years. In one drug bust alone, the wily canine helped find more than $600,000 in illegal drugs.
Buck lives and works with Perry. After 10 years with the force he will be retired. State law allows the dog’s trainer to buy him for $1. Perry plans to buy Buck and allow him a peaceful retirement.