New drug laws drive Kansas City area police departments to change K9 training

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WIBW) – With marijuana now legalized for medicinal purposes in Missouri, many Kansas City area police departments have decided to take that drug out of the equation for some narcotics-sniffing K9s.

KCTV 5 reports changing drug laws are begging police departments throughout the nation to make changes when it comes to K9 officers.

Many departments have decided new dogs should not sniff out marijuana.

Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, Ind., a training facility for police dogs, said training can be expensive. The dogs at Vohne Liche come from overseas and by the time they are ready to go to officers, departments have already invested up to $22,000.

The dogs at Vohne Liche work to play with a ball – to play with the ball they have to find the drugs.

“We have methamphetamines, we have heroin, and we have cocaine,” said trainer Kenneth D. Licklider.

But, he said he does not have marijuana.

“It’s just cleaner to not have it,” he said.

He said the move is because more states have changed laws to legalize marijuana.

“Five years ago, there were rumblings about it. Three years ago, it started. Now it’s our police; we don’t put marijuana on until we know,” said Licklider.

Departments in which marijuana is still illegal can include that training, but it could get legally complicated if the dog is working in a state where the law has changed. Now the question is “What drug did the dog actually detect?”

“Defense attorneys are going to tear you apart by saying that [they found] cocaine,” said Licklider. “Yeah, you found cocaine in the car but there was also marijuana, and that’s what your dog was hitting on and that’s legal.”

The Kansas City Police Department fits the new weed trend. Its new K9, Scoop, has been in Kansas City since August and differs from other dogs in the department. Scoop has not been trained to detect marijuana.

“It is a big investment,” said Sgt. Bill Brown, of KCPD’s K-9 program. “It’s a lot of commitment to it in the way things are changing now. As far as the marijuana laws, it makes sense for us to just not imprint on marijuana.”

Scoop will get no excuses on a drug case.

“Just because there was a bunch of marijuana there, I can easily sit on the stand and say,’ I never imprinted that dog on marijuana,’” said Sgt. Brown. “‘I never trained that dog on marijuana. But, I did train that dog on cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, which was found.”

The Clay County, Mo., Sheriff’s Office said it will take a different approach. Its new K9, Csibi (chee-bee) has been trained to detect all four drugs and the department says it has paid off. Csibi recently helped Det. Andrew Ignatenko seize about $1 million worth of drugs and cash.

Csibi(Clay Co. Sheriff’s Office)

Lenexa Police said they have three K9 officers and all three are trained on methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana.

Olathe PD has five – four are dual-trained, which means they can find drugs and have been trained in patrol functions, and one is just for drugs. Dept. spokesman Sgt. Joel Yeldell said Olathe has one more dog in training, who will not be trained to detect marijuana.

Overland Park Police also has five dogs. Three are dual-trained, one solely detects explosives and its newest K9 is a comfort dog assigned to its new Crisis Action Team, which works with those in a mental health crisis. OPPD also said K9s throughout the nation are trained to detect all kinds of things like bed bugs and even COVID-19.

One thing is clear though, different drug laws mean different training for police dogs.

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