The streets and county roads of Jefferson County will see a furry face now that the sheriff’s office has a K-9 patrol unit again. Earlier this month, Sgt. Soder and his handler, Sgt. Courtney Kelly, completed the required training through Von Klein Stein’s Working Dog program in Little Rock.
“In 2017, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office nearly two-decade-long K-9 program was disbanded due to the seemingly lack of interest with newer deputies with regard to the responsibilities of a K-9 handler to include the training demands that make K-9’s such a valuable asset,” said sheriff Lafayette Woods, Jr. “Additionally, budget limitations also played a major role in the decision to disband the program.”
According to Woods, the K-9 program started in 1999 after some trial use with German Shepherds.
“The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has acquired a number of K-9’s, but in 2011 we made a switch from German Shepherd K-9’s to Belgian Malinois—- a more agile breed of sheriff K-9’s,” he said. “In 2007, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office very own, Sergeant “Prins”, a Belgian Malinois, was recognized as the No. 1 police K-9 in the state of Arkansas in the National Narcotic Detector Dog Association (NNDDA) competitions and ranked number eleven in the nation overall.”
Sgt. Soder, a Belgian Malinois from Hungary, was acquired back in October for about $14, 500, according to Kelly.
“The decision to reactivate the K-9 program is because first and foremost, I understand as the sheriff that a K-9 program has a plethora of benefits for law enforcement agencies and communities alike,” said Woods. “The sheriff K-9 has a unique impact on the community. These well-trained animals serve a myriad of missions, from drug enforcement to search and rescue to apprehending fleeing suspects.”
Sgt. Soder, a dual-purpose dog, is trained in narcotics detection and patrol deployment. The one-year-old can sniff out marijuana, meth, cocaine and heroin.
“This dog here is very, very laid back,” said Sgt. Courtney Kelly. “But, at the same time, he has what it takes to take the bad guy down.”
Ever since he was a child, Kelly has loved dogs. Now, for the second time, he’s getting to combine two things he cares about—- law enforcement and dogs.
“I’m just a dog person,” he said adding he owns Beagles. “I love dogs and I love this job. So, when you put two and two together, you’re in heaven.”
In 2010, Kelly started his first stint with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and later left to be a conductor at Union Pacific. But, after realizing he missed a life of law, he returned in 2019.
“His return to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office adds value in more ways than one,” said Woods. “He returns as a supervisor and with a wealth of knowledge to be shared with younger deputies that may be aspiring to become a K-9 handler or even being promoted to a supervisor.”
With Sgt. Soder by his side, Kelly says he’s ready to tackle anything and most importantly put the bad guys behind bars.
“I know he has my back,” Kelly said. “I don’t have to question it. If I hit that button, he’s coming and coming hard.”