By Megan Kehoe

The Bulletin

Crook County Sheriff’s Deputy Mitch Madden got a new partner last week.

Like other deputies, Madden’s new partner will be expected to listen to his bosses, fight crime and cooperate with other law enforcement entities.

In his off hours, the young recruit is free to do what he pleases, which so far has included a lot of chewing on pine cones in Madden’s backyard.

“It was a huge relief to finally get him,” Madden said. “On the other hand, it was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we’re going forward with this. This is awesome.’”

Jett, a 15-month-old black Labrador, is a drug-detection dog and was recently purchased by the department after a successful yearlong fundraising campaign that garnered $22,000 in community donations. The Sheriff’s Office held several fundraising events throughout the year and also received large donations from Crestview Cable Communications, the Prineville-area Band of Brothers and the Club Pioneer restaurant in Prineville, among others.

Jett is the first Crook County Sheriff’s Office narcotics dog to patrol the streets in recent memory, said Madden.

“We do have a controlled substance problem in Crook County, and people have known that we don’t have a dog,” Madden said. “We really needed to add one to combat the issue.”

Madden said Crook County sees many methamphetamine-related crimes and recently has started seeing more heroin in the area.

Drug detection dogs are a great asset to law enforcement, as the dogs are trained to confirm the presence of narcotics through their advanced sense of smell.

“It basically reduces the number of man hours it normally would take to search vehicles or houses,” Madden said. “It saves a lot of time.”

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has a mixed breed 9-year-old narcotics dog named “Narc,” who has been a “phenomenal resource,” said Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Bryan Husband.

“They’re a great deterrent to narcotics trafficking,” said Husband. “I think when a criminal offender is thinking about how to go about trafficking narcotics, they’d probably choose to go through an area where they knew there wasn’t a narcotics dog.”

Madden selected Jett himself after visiting a K-9 handler in Northern California. Madden said he selected Jett out of the four dogs the handler had because of his good temperament and easygoing energy. He said it doesn’t usually matter what breed the dog is for drug-detection purposes, as long as it has natural hunting instincts and drive and can be trained.

It cost the department about $3,500 to buy the dog and an additional $8,000 for a four-week dog and deputy training course in California. The rest of the money has gone toward outfitting Madden’s patrol car with a proper cage for the pooch and will also go toward any other expenses that may come up. The dog spends 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the deputy and is essentially Madden’s responsibility. Occasionally, Jett’s skills may be used by other law enforcement agencies in the area, said Madden.

And while the dog has been brought in to combat drug-related crime in the area, Madden says Jett has already proven he can effect change in other areas as well. Madden said this became clear when the deputy had to speak to a kid recently regarding a case.

“He (the minor) was deathly afraid of law enforcement,” Madden said. “But when he saw Jett, there was this big turnaround. He was happy to see us. It’s a good tool to show kids that law enforcement aren’t a bunch of bad guys.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0354, .