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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Veteran prison dog handler resigns over new drug search program

News 10An expert dog handler and trainer who spent decades with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says he was threatened by a superior when he tried to point out what he believes are flaws in a new program aimed at reducing prison drug smuggling.

Wayne Conrad, 61, resigned in September as the CDCR began ramping up a plan to begin using dogs to search prison staff and visitors.

Conrad first learned dog handling skills in the Marine Corps and later worked with a canine unit for the New York City Housing Authority before being hired by the California prison system in 1985, where he worked as a handler and trainer for 21 years.

CDCR called Conrad out of retirement in 2009 to organize a statewide program to use dogs to detect contraband cell phones in addition to narcotics and tobacco.

The team eventually grew to 32 dogs.

"And the beauty is that it was done with no funding," Conrad said. "All the dogs we received, they were either Belgian malinois, German shepherds or Dutch shepherds. They were all donated or found in rescues. These dogs didn't cost the department anything."

Conrad said one of the dogs, a German shepherd named Drako, discovered 1,000 cell phones.

As CDCR began implementing its new drug interdiction pilot program last year with initial funding of $5.2 million, it began paying at least $5,000 each for what Conrad said were a dozen German shorthaired pointers and Labrador retrievers.

The state will also use ion scanners, full body scanners and physical searches to try to stem the flow of drugs into California prisons. continue reading...

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