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Free Program Helps Small Police Departments Sniff Out Crime

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FAYETTEVILLE — Four-legged police officers can often make the difference in tracking down a lead or breaking a case. But for many small departments, police dogs are a luxury they simply cannot afford -- until now.

Certified instructors at the Cumberland County Sheriff's office are training dogs from smaller departments for free.

Johnny Wiggins, a Gates County sheriff's deputy, bought his dog with his own money, but could not afford to train him to become his police partner.

He hopes through the free ten-week course, his department of four will become a department of five.

"We couldn't have done it without it, there's no way we could have done it," Wiggins said.

"In law enforcement, you cover such a wide spectrum from missing children to apprehending criminals. You need that dog there now, and you don't need to wait 30 minutes for a dog to arrive," Cumberland County K9 Deputy Sgt. Tim Loughman said. "That's what small departments are seeing."

The handlers and their dogs are staying at local fire departments to save money. In between classroom and field work, they are getting hands-on training by responding to calls with Cumberland K9 deputies.

Henderson Police Officer Greg Williams says it is a large department being a good neighbor.

"Departments need to come together and work together as one unit to combat crime and provide new ideas for training," Williams said.

Deputies in Cumberland County say it is a way to make sure all law enforcement agencies are top dog.

The police dogs and their partners will take their national certification test next Friday.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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