There’s no such thing as a normal day for a person working in law enforcement. They may all start out similarly with putting on the uniform and buckling on a duty belt to carry the tools of the trade. These tools may include a magazine pouch, a flashlight, a taser, a baton or nightstick, handcuffs, pepper spray and, of course, a firearm. The simple act of putting on the uniform and duty belt doesn’t make a law enforcement officer, however. There’s a certain mindset that those officers who are successful in their jobs have that makes the difference.
Randy “Rudy” Carroll, who has been with the Lincolnton Police Department for almost seven years, does not strap on a duty belt. Instead he wears a vest, which contains all of the necessary tools of a law enforcement officer, with a few extras. A belt would interfere with his use of his police dog, Nash, who is perhaps even more valuable this his handgun. Carroll has been a K9 officer for almost three years. In addition to the four-legged tool that he brings with him every day he’s on duty, he also has to carry all of the equipment that he needs for his dog.
Nash adds an additional set of responsibilities for Carroll. He’s responsible for his day-to-day care, feeding, exercise, medical needs and keeping up with his training. Nash is not the only K9 on the Lincolnton Police Department force. There are currently three other K9 teams on the force. Carroll is able to do some of his training with them.
“Sixteen training hours per month are mandatory but I try to do training with him every day,” Carroll said. “On top of that you’ve got to keep him clean, keep your car clean and make sure he gets his vet visits. It’s like taking care of another kid.”
Carroll both patrols a stationary route and is on-call for other officers who may need the assistance of Carroll and Nash such as a drug search or missing person.
“There are different calls every day,” he said. “Either we could go on a domestic call or try to serve a warrant, conduct traffic stops or narcotics investigations. My job has changed tremendously since I got Nash. I’m not so much the forefront person but the guy on the side holding Nash.”
While Nash can and does find hidden drugs, he also helps to keep perpetrators in line. They are much less likely to either run or be overly belligerent for fear of the dog. Tracking is one of Nash’s special talents. Carroll and the other Lincolnton Police Department K9 officers will sometimes assist both the Lincoln County Sherriff’s Office and N.C. Highway Patrol. When serving warrants, Carroll will often put Nash at the back of the house to prevent people from running out the back. To date, Nash has not had to actually apprehend a perpetrator.
“He has been to the point where we’ve almost had to apprehend people but every time, they see Nash and lie down and give up,” Carroll said. “I think the K9 is a great tool for the department. His presence actually stops people from running.”
When Carroll is not on calls, he patrols his designated area looking for something that may be out of order. It’s a remarkable display of multi-tasking to watch how Carroll is able to both pay attention to his driving, listen to his radio for calls, which are all spoken in code that he had to memorize, and notice things that are suspect.
During a recent patrol on which the Lincoln Times-News accompanied Carroll, it didn’t take long before he pulled up behind a vehicle that he suspected may be driven by an individual who didn’t have a valid driver’s license and was known to frequently have drugs in his possession. Once the driver realized he was being followed, he started making extra turns on his route, perhaps to determine if he was indeed being followed.
“You start to see nervous tendencies,” he said. “He turned on his turn signal right before he turned. He knows we’re following him. They call it officer’s intuition. Once you’ve been in law enforcement for so long, you build this knowledge. An activity that may not look suspicious to you will to us. That vehicle pulled out in front of me and I knew from past experience who was driving the car and that his license was possibly suspended. ”
After a few minutes of observation, Carroll switched on the lights of his cruiser and called for back up. The driver pulled into a small apartment complex and, as he pulled in, numerous young men stood up and approached the car. Carroll admitted that this was the time that the premonition that he was potentially walking into a dangerous situation runs through his mind. Yet, he didn’t hesitate to approach the car and he was soon surrounded by other people, some with their phones held up taking video. Carroll was outnumbered for several minutes before backup arrived, and even then the officers were outnumbered.
Even though he was in a stressful situation, Carroll was extremely pleasant and calm in his dealings. He had a ready smile, even when he put the handcuffs on the driver, who was quite agitated. In addition to driving without a license, as Carroll had suspected when he was following him, the driver had marijuana in the car, which Carroll confiscated.
The bystanders, who were more aggressive in both their postures and their language than the two who were in the vehicle, were more than just filming the encounter. They were broadcasting it live on Facebook, which Carroll said was common.
Nash was never taken out of the car during this stop. Carroll said that both the people in the vehicle and the bystanders frequently asked if there was a dog in the car. When he told them there was, they told him were the marijuana was hidden so Carroll wouldn’t take him out to search for it.
As a precaution, Carroll carries a remote door opening device on his person. This opens the rear door on the passenger side of the cruiser. Nash knows if that door opens, it’s game on.
“He never goes in or out of the righthand side door unless it’s to work,” Carroll said. “If I let him out to go to the bathroom or any other reason, I take him out the left door.”
After the driver was arrested, the officer who came for backup took the suspect to the courthouse and Carroll met them there. Once the magistrate did her job and decided on the bond, Carroll took the marijuana to be logged into evidence. The whole process, including the actual arrest, appearing before the magistrate and the paperwork took approximately an hour and a half. Once he was finished with that arrest, Carroll and Nash returned to the road to continue to do their job.
Even though Nash can be as much of a deterrent to criminal behavior as a loaded gun, because he’s very people friendly, he’s also great at public relations within the community. When he’s not on call, Carroll will often take Nash to visit schools, where he’s popular with the students.