Officer Luke reports for duty in Darlington
By Samantha Lyles
If you see the Darlington Police Department’s newest officer, you might be overcome with the urge to offer your hand and tell him he’s a good boy. Which might be a bad idea with any other cop, but with K-9 officer Luke, it’s a perfectly reasonable response.
“He’s very friendly. With children or any people he meets, he’s not aggressive. He just loves to be petted and played with,” says his DPD investigator/handler, who did not want to be named for security reasons. “He’s pretty laid back.”
The 2-year-old American Labrador retriever completed 15 weeks of training along with his human partner, and Luke is ready to help serve his community with a smile and a fair amount of drool.
Trained to locate narcotics and track people, Luke will use his incredible sense of smell (at least 10,000 times sharper than a human’s) to help officers find illegal drugs, home in on missing children and wandering elderly folks, or even track fugitives without a scent sample.
His partner says Luke can find marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin or any drug containing those base products, even if the drugs are masked with stronger smells like coffee or peanut butter.
“When a human smells spaghetti sauce, we generally just smell all the ingredients at once and identify it as spaghetti sauce. Luke can pick out all the different smells and tell the tomatoes from the onions, the basil from the oregano, and single out one thing from all those strong scents,” says the investigator.
The American Kennel Club notes that Labradors are “an intelligent breed with a good work ethic and generally good temperaments.” Common working roles for Labradors include tracking and detection, but they also excel as guide dogs, therapy dogs, and can even sniff out cancer or predict the onset of epileptic seizures.
The DPD stresses that Luke is not an attack dog, that his duties are confined to locating and signaling. But make no mistake – he is a law enforcement officer and anyone who attempts to harm Luke will be charged as if they assaulted a human police officer.
His handler expects that Luke’s law enforcement career will last six to eight years, after which he will retire to civilian life — hopefully spent on his partner’s couch, enjoying treats and playing with the kids.
“The department doesn’t have a written policy about that yet, but that’s definitely what I want,” says his handler. “Luke is already part of the family.”