New Four-Legged Officers Join MD Law Enforcement

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, MD - The K-9 unit is one of the most well-known divisions of Maryland law enforcement, and six more officers were welcomed in Thursday.

The four-legged officers graduated from training in Hagerstown. The newest addition to the Washington County Sheriff's Department is a German Shepherd named Rizer.

He just completed the intensive K-9 training program at the Maryland Division of Correction.

"He was completely green, had no training," says Deputy Jason Litten, Rizer's handler.

Deputy Litten says the K-9 unit is one of the most well-respected groups in Maryland law enforcement.

"It seems when the dogs arrive, people hear them bark, it seems to be a deterrent right away for them," says Litten.

Rizer, and five other dogs, completed extensive courses in patrol or drug detection, including over 500 hours of training

"It takes 10 weeks to take a dog that knows nothing in order to have it proficient in finding 7 or 8 different drug odors," says K-9 Commander Major Peter Anderson.

Two dogs represented the four state area at graduation, Rizer and Lydia, a black Labrador.

Her handler, Officer Shannon McKenzie, works at the state prisons in Cumberland.

"It became a passion for me, just being around the dogs and training and seeing how far they could come," says McKenzie.

But the training does come with a sacrifice, not every dog in the program gets to graduate.

"We'll have several handlers working two dogs, that way if we have to wash out one, then the other one can step right up to the plate," explains Anderson.

The officers also have to spend days away from their families to work with the K-9s.

"When you're not there they have to take the burden on, taking care of the household basically so it can be very stressful at times," says McKenzie.

Another requirement for K-9 officers, they have to be sociable because they live with their handlers.

Rizer will continue his training to become a patrol dog.