State Capitol Police K-9 Team Wins Top Dog Award in National Trials
Balu, a 2 ½-year-old German Shepherd, and his handler, State Capitol Police Officer Kevin Johnson, have worked and trained together for more than a year. Their compatible partnership resulted in winning a national first-place title as Top Team for Vehicle Search Explosives from the U.S. Police Canine Association on April 5. The duo also won second place overall for parcel, vehicle and room searches.
More than 60 police canine teams from across the country competed in the two-day trials. To win in the explosives vehicle detection category, the dog must sniff out ammonia nitrate and a detonation fuse, and the handler must be in sync with his partner and know when he has a positive alert.
Johnson and Balu worked swiftly in front of the panel of five judges experienced in police dog handling. The duo circled five vehicles and found the two sites in three minutes, earning a score of 99.83 out of 100.
The parcel search took two minutes for Balu to detect plastic explosives and TNT. Their score was 97.66 out of 100.
The room search took four minutes to find smokeless powder, earning the pair a score of 99 out of 100.
“His scent work is phenomenal,” Johnson said of Balu. “He was up against dog teams from the CIA, Dept. of Defense, NYPD, and the NYC Transit – teams that are on the front lines of possible terrorism every single day.
“I knew Balu would do very well, but I didn’t know he would do as well as he did. I was very pleased with the award.”
Johnson has more than 25 years’ experience as a K-9 handler. He worked as a K-9 handler for 24 of his 27 years with the Wilson Police Department. He has worked for the State Capitol Police for about two years.
“Officer Johnson and Balu have done countless searches for the State Capitol Police and other agencies in Wake County for special events,” said SCP Chief Glen Allen. “While no explosive devices have been found, their searches have brought a level of comfort to all of us that is immeasurable.”
The State Bureau of Investigation was this year’s host of the USPCA National Detector Dog Trials. SBI’s K-9 Unit coordinator, Ken Mathias, spearheaded the event, and said that USPCA is the gold standard of police dog certification.
“They have some of the most rigorous standards in our profession, and this is a very prestigious competition,” Mathias said.
“Proper training means that handlers have full control of their dogs, and a properly trained dog will listen to any command the handler gives. Dogs at this trial level should perform flawlessly.”
"Officer Johnson and K-9 Balu exemplify what a proper Bomb Detector Team should be – outstanding handler working a great dog."
“You have to be able to read them,” Johnson said of police dogs. “Their behavior is the way they communicate.”
“Balu is not an aggressive dog. He’s very social."