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Council approves new paws for public safety

By Xavier Smith xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 8:00 PM

The Lebanon City Council approved, on first reading, a resolution that would add an additional gun and explosive detection canine and handler course for the Public Safety department during its meeting Tuesday.

Public Safety Director Mike Justice said the addition was needed after the previous gun and explosive detection canine and handler left the department in September.

“We’ve always had two at Public Safety,” he said. “The handler we had took a more lucrative position and took his dog with him. It was his dog, and it’s really important that the department owns the animal.”

Justice handles the only current canine, Prime, who is recovering from an injury that happened more than a month ago. Trainers for Yako, the new canine, are awaiting council approval on the resolution’s second reading to begin odor training. The training covers 19 different odors, which include nitrates and other types of explosive materials.

“Basically any kind of compound that will cause an explosion, they will hit on,” Justice said.

Wilson County has received bomb threats in recent past, including one at Wilson Central and Lebanon high schools in 2012, but both proved false. Justice said although those searches turned up empty, the department would not be reactive to threats.

“It’s more about prevention,” he said. “If we have a tool to protect people, that’s what we’re going to use.”

The department received donations that covered $7,500 (75 percent) of the acquisition cost from several county department and agencies, including Wilson County Sheriff’s Department, Lebanon Special School District and Wilson County Schools.

“This is everyone in the county trying to do something together for the common good,” Justice said. “The conversation really picked up with the schools when they found the kid with that pistol.”

A 15-year-old Lebanon High School student was charged in December after school officials discovered he had a Springfield Armory XDM 0.9mm pistol and magazine full of ammunition, including three powerful hollow-point bullets, in his possession. It wasn’t the first such occurrence in the county.

Authorities took a 16-year-old Mt. Juliet High School student into custody in 2011 after they found a 0.22 caliber handgun, a hunting knife and a police nightstick in his car parked at the school.

Yako will have training for 10 weeks on explosives and three weeks on tracking after odor.

“Just to be able to track a missing child or individual is an asset to us,” Justice said. “If you put a dog on a person’s trail, he will track it to the end.”

Justice said the canine would be used across the county whenever needed for multiple uses.

“If we know there is going to be a large gathering, we will run a bomb dog,” he said. “There are people out there who want to hurt you. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Lebanon or Los Angeles.”

The larger gatherings and instances the canine could be used include the Wilson County Fair, Sherry’s Run, Music City Star rides, dignitary visits and multi-agency assistance for the Governor’s Conference.

Yako will have a $1,950 yearly maintenance fee associated with him. The next city council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 3 at 6 p.m.

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