LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville Metro Department of Corrections has two new officers. Max and Mia are canines being brought in to curb the spread of drugs at the jail.
Since last fall, there have been several deaths and overdoses. The jail's new Director Jerry Collins made sniffing out narcotics one of his top priorities.
Mayor Greg Fischer swore the dogs in Tuesday, in a ceremony with their handlers. Those handlers are LMDC officers who bid for the positions.
Officer Darren Gibson has been with LMDC for 15 years, but said becoming a K9 handler was always his dream.
He and Max will be partnered together.
"I have personally never met a dog that wants to find narcotics more to get his ball, he will almost rip my arm off, to get at the narcotics to get his ball," Gibson said.
"One thing doesn't solve the problem, you have to hit it on all fronts," Collins said.
Collins added illicit drugs have always been found inside the jail, but the rise in the prevalence of fentanyl has made the overdose problem worse. Even a small amount can be deadly.
"I think we're going at a good pace, we can't go fast enough though," he said.
Councilwoman Amy Holton Stewart (D25) spearheaded the move for a canine unit, after hearing from LMDC officers firsthand. She said Metro Council initially invested about $80,000 to bring in the dogs, and pay for training and raises for officers.
"If you have the ability to listen sometimes the solutions come naturally," she said.
Holton Stewart said tools, like the new body scanner, help. But she believes dogs are more effective because they can find narcotics humans, and even technology, can't.
"Course we don't know how those drugs got in the jail, but the main purpose is to rid the jail of those drugs and hopefully save lives," she said.
Before rolling out the new unit, LMDC relied on outside canines to sweep the jail when intel suggested there may be drugs. Now, Gibson said they'll be able to make sweeps of the jail every day.
"If we can stop the source, we can stop the flow," he said. "Having a narcotics canine walk around will make anyone take pause."
Max and Mia will be true partners with their handlers. Instead of living at LMDC, they'll go home with their handlers every day and live with their families.