Don’t mess with Max.
That was one of the lessons Monday at the National Sheriffs’ Association Conference, where Max — a 100-pound giant schnauzer with an impressive beard — participated in a rougher, less gentle style of dog show.
Max, who is trained to help control violent prison inmates, comes equipped with a camera that gives his handler a dog’s eye view of what is going on around him, goggles that protect his eyes and a receiver that allows him to react to nonverbal commands.
Capt. Joseph Garcia of the U.S. Corrections Special Operations Group said Max is one of the first dogs to be trained to perform in high-risk correctional facility environments.
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“It’s a super crazy environment,” Garcia said. “And I need my dog to be calm and collected, but to be able to show some teeth when necessary. Max can go from zero to 150 in less than a second.”
Max is trained to operate inside correctional facilities during high-conflict situations where “there are a lot of people who can cause a lot of problems,” Garcia said at the conference at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
During a demonstration Monday, Max was surrounded by good guys, but a bad guy in a padded suit was on the loose.
Max consistently attacked and controlled the bad guy and ignored the good guys, even when they surrounded the bad guy.
“The dog is a force multiplier,” Garcia said. “He can handle multiple attackers. Besides, we’d rather send a dog in after an inmate than shoot him.”
Besides understanding commands in German, Czech and Hebrew, Max can respond to nonverbal commands, an important skill because prisons, jails and other criminal detainment facilities tend to be noisy and chaotic, Garcia said.
U.S. corrections personnel are used on a contract basis to help transport and guard terrorists and transnational gang members, and also to help quell riots and hostage situations, and to help in rescues, Garcia said.
According to Anthony Martwick, area director for National Public Safety for Verizon, canines are becoming more integral to law enforcement operations. And just like the dogs, the tools they use are becoming more sophisticated.
Verizon is rolling out a surgically embedded system that will monitor a law enforcement dog’s health, as well as provide platforms for cameras and other devices that will alert officials if the dog is being attacked by someone using radioactive, biological or chemical agents, Martwick said.
As the days get hotter during the summer, monitoring body temperature can keep a dog from becoming exhausted, Martwick said. The device can also transmit the dog’s location and vital signs to a handler’s cellphone, Martwick said.
“It’s amazing how many canines there are out there today,” he said. “Some of the larger agencies have 90 to 100 dogs on staff.”
The conference, which is being attended by hundreds of sheriffs and staff from around the United States, continues through Wednesday at the convention center.