HELENA — A 19-month-old Labrador retriever is helping the Helena Police Department get dangerous drugs off the city’s streets. His name is Copper, and he’s a highly-trained narcotics dog.
Copper has been with the department for two months, and HPD Senior Officer Jacob Scavone said he has already been deployed six times.
“I can take Copper, walk him around a vehicle, and he can tell me what’s inside,” Scavone said. “And we can develop further probable cause, search warrants, that kind of thing form there.”
With a recent spike in overdose deaths in Lewis and Clark County, Scavone said Copper’s job is more important than ever.
“He’s pivotal to further these investigations,” Scavone said. “These are drugs that we would be missing.”
Copper is trained to detect certain drugs, and he’s working to learn even more.
Working with Copper means constant training. Scavone said he and Copper train every shift to both keep Copper’s skills sharp and to continue strengthening their teamwork.
“The biggest pressure is to make sure I know exactly what he’s telling me,” Scavone said. “I have to be able to document and articulate that this is the behavior he’s showing because he’s finding that odor that he’s trained to do so.”
Along with all of this training, Scavone said Copper gets re-certified by his original trainer in North Carolina every year.
Interpreting and understanding Copper’s behavior is just part of the job, Scavone is also tasked with keeping Copper safe—in a dangerous line of work, that is a big responsibility.
“I carry Narcan for him,” Scavone said.
Copper is not just a resource for the Helena Police Department, he and Scavone also assist the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Montana Highway Patrol.
It’s a big job, but Copper is trained and ready to keep the city and county safe.