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West Jordan Journal

West Jordan K-9 unit makes an impressive performance at national competition

May 08, 2023 03:14PM ● By Peri Kinder

West Jordan Police Department K-9 unit officers Miguel Rodriguez, Brandon Lawson, Brett McMullian, Taylor Longmore and Sgt. Mike Jones competed at the 31st Annual Metro K-9 Trials in Las Vegas with their police service dogs. (Photo courtesy of Mike Jones)

At only 2 years old, Vranik is one of the youngest members of the West Jordan Police Department. But since he joined the team 10 months ago, he’s been credited with 17 arrests. 

Police Service Dog Vranik and his handler Sgt. Mike Jones recently returned from the 31st Annual Metro K-9 Trials in Las Vegas where they took second place in the building search competition. More than 75 teams attended the national event, competing in categories like explosives and narcotics detection, agility, tactical obedience and handler protection.

Jones leads the WJPD K-9 unit which consists of five teams, all of which competed at the event. Officer Brett McMullian and PSD Trigger earned a first place finish in the area search challenge. Officer Miguel Rodriguez and PSD Harley, Officer Taylor Longmore and PSD Jax, and Officer Brandon Lawson and PSD Zeke also performed well in their events.

“We spend more time with those dogs than we do with our own family,” Jones said. “We go to work a 10-hour shift and they’re with us for that. Anytime we do extra things, like if I’m called to help out with a warrant or a fugitive arrest, we’re gone. Then they come home and get to be here with us. The bonds that are created are pretty strong.”

It takes the right temperament for a dog to become a member of the K-9 unit. Old-school belief was that tough, aggressive dogs were the way to go, but Jones said agencies have stopped working with those types of animals because they are difficult to handle and often bite their partners. 

“Today’s policing dogs are highly social dogs that can function in both worlds,” he said. “They can come and be home with the family or come back to the department and be around the guys. They’re able to be a pet and let people touch them, and then they can go out and switch it on.”

K-9 teams have to train every day to keep the dogs engaged and to keep their skill levels on point. The WJPD teams train for two hours every day, except for Wednesdays, when they train for four hours.

Jones said the WJPD is one of the few agencies that build mandatory training time into the work schedule. 

“That’s how you get those dogs to that level. It makes it so we have good dogs,” he said. “[Vranik] has been involved with 17 assisted arrests. That means he has been on a call where his presence has influenced an arrest. That is priceless. When you have an 80-pound Dutch Shepherd barking at you, you start rethinking things. [PSDs] prevent suspects from being injured and prevent officers from being injured.”

Jones has trained with four other service dogs, including an explosive ordinance detection dog that worked at Utah Jazz games. He is also a dog-training instructor for the state of Utah. Although he’s competed in local events, this was his first time at the national level. 

He was proud of Vranik’s performance at the event. “Vranik is a single-purpose apprehension dog. Probably the ? one in the state of Utah. He’s only there to help arrest bad people. That’s his main function.”

WJPD Police Chief Ken Wallentine said the K-9 squad is a critical part of the department and integral to its mission to enforce public safety. 

“Our dogs have a range of specialized skills and abilities to perform vital tasks, including drug and explosive detection, protecting officers in dangerous circumstances, locating suspects and assisting in search and rescue operations. Their keen senses and specialized training enable them to perform tasks that humans can’t perform as efficiently as police service dogs. Our K-9 squad provides irreplaceable support and protection to our police officers and enhances the capabilities of the West Jordan Police Department.” λ