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Oklahoma County Jail Getting Contraband-Sniffing Dog Thanks to Law Firm Donation

by Kathryn McNutt

 

Attorneys Bryce Johnson, left, and Joe Biscone, with Johnson & Biscone law firm, have donated $15,000 for the purchase of a contraband-sniffing dog for the Oklahoma County jail. [Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman]

Sgt. Curtis Whittington spent five years “walking the floor” at the Oklahoma County jail, where today he is in charge of fire safety and risk management.

Searching for drugs and other contraband smuggled into the jail is a never-ending task for detention officers, Whittington said.

“This is what we deal with on a daily basis,” he said, displaying two shanks fashioned by inmates. Jailers find marijuana, meth, glass pipes, cellphones and much more hidden in cells, ceilings and corridors.

“As in every facility around the country, it’s a problem,” said Mark Opgrande, sheriff department spokesman. “It’s amazing the things they can think of.”

The items are brought in by the public, contractors, lawyers and jail employees, Opgrande said.

“We’ve arrested a lot of employees over the years for bringing things in,” he said.

Jail staff members stumble across the items or find them during large-scale cell searches that require a lot of people and a lot of time, he said.

A trained police dog could do the job much more quickly and efficiently.

“To me, it just made sense,” said Whittington, who made getting a dog for the jail his mission.

He tried to raise the money through grants and donations, but his efforts fell short until he approached Joe Biscone and Bryce Johnson of the Johnson & Biscone law firm just a few blocks from the jail.

“They thought it was a wonderful idea,” Whittington said.

Johnson is a friend of Sheriff P.D. Taylor, and the lawyers frequently represent police officers and firefighters in workers’ compensation cases.

“We love those clients,” Biscone said.

When he and Johnson heard about the need, they concluded, “Why don’t we just buy this dog ourselves?”

“It was just such a need,” said Johnson, noting it takes five hours for a team of humans to search two floors of the jail.

The law firm’s $15,000 donation to the county put the project on track for the new year.

A handler will be chosen and will go to Vohne Liche Kennels — a K-9 training facility in Denver, Indiana — to select the dog, Opgrande said. Vohne Liche has trained police and military service dogs for more than 5,000 law enforcement and government agencies, according to the website.

The handler will attend a three-week handler’s school in Indiana with the dog, Opgrande said. When the two return, they will live and work together.

Opgrande said the sheriff’s department has six dogs in its canine unit now that go out on patrol with deputies. But this dog will work exclusively in the jail.

Whittington said he would be happy to be the handler, but he will leave the selection up to those who know best. The most important thing, he said, is the project is moving forward.

“I’m just grateful to Johnson and Biscone,” Whittington said. “Without them, I’d still be hunting.”