CRESTVIEW — It was a rainy, dreary Wednesday outside the Crestview Police Department, but it was anything but inside Warriors Hall because it was time for K9 and SWAT day at the youth academy.
Officer Wanda Hulion took role call as kids from the community waited for Officer Josh Ellrick and K9 Officer Hero.
This marks the third year for the Crestview Police Department’s Youth Academy, a program for youth 7 to 15 years old to learn from officers about law enforcement.
“We want the kids to know we’re people just like they are," Hulion said. "This is our job. You have a lot of kids saying they want to know what a police officer does because they want to be a police officer when they grow up, so, that’s our main goal.”
Ellrick began his lesson by describing Hero’s intense smelling abilities. He said Hero can smell up to four individual toppings on a pizza at one time. Hero was there to demonstrate that instinctive smelling ability by sniffing out the marijuana and methamphetamine Ellrick had Officer Javonnia Peak hide near the front door.
After Ellrick brought Hero out, the kids watched as the K9 sniffed around the room until he sat with his tail pointed upward signaling he had found the drugs.
Cheering and laughter rang through the hall after Hero received payment for doing his job in the form of a plastic stick.
Many of the kids raised their hand throughout Ellrick's lesson with questions. One of the children mentioned he saw on a television show someone use oils to disguise drugs from a K9.
“I’m glad you bring that up…You guys can’t smell it. I can’t smell it,” Ellrick said. “However, because Hero’s sense of smell is so strong, no matter what you do to disguise the odor of a narcotic, Hero will be able to find it because that’s his designed purpose.”
The demonstration complete, it was the moment the kids had been waiting for: the chance to pet K9 Hero.
One by one, they walked to the middle of the room, where Hero lay on his back waiting for his belly rubs.
Ellrick ended his lesson, and the kids took a break before the SWAT sergeant began his lesson — gun safety. Officer Sam Kimmons said the kids received gun safety lessons more than once during the week.
"Sneaking in some educational points without them knowing...because in our area with it being high military, most of the time kids have guns at home," Kimmons said. "Plus, it's still southern territory. There's a lot of people (whose) parents hunt."
The youth academy ended Aug. 3 with graduation and celebration at Old Spanish Trail Park.