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Trooper Douglas C. Brydge and dog Scout nab a 'perpetrator' during a training exercise.
ZACHARY REID/RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH
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BY ZACHARY REID
RICHMOND--Garbed in an appropriately thick, if somewhat unfashionable, wool suit, Virginia State Trooper Justin L. Barrak spent part of his morning playing a role he has come to know well: perpetrator.
At the sound of the voice of fellow trooper Jesse R. Lewis, Barrak made like a real criminal and took off as fast as he could.
And at the sight of Barrak fleeing, Lewis did what he has spent 13 weeks training to do: He called a warning, then let loose of Ace, a police dog who has also spent the past 13 weeks preparing for moments like this.
In seconds, Ace was airborne, his flight stopped only when his teeth sunk into the arm of Barrak's suit. He would hold on for minutes, letting go only after the repeated assurances from Lewis that Barrak was in custody.
"It never gets old," said Barrak, one of three state troopers to earn their stripes as canine trainers during a Dec. 7 ceremony at Virginia State Police headquarters in Chesterfield County.
A dozen canine teams--officers and their newly trained dogs--also graduated from the Virginia State Police Basic Canine School. The group represented the biggest class ever to graduate from the school. The teams included five Virginia troopers, three North Carolina Highway Patrol officers and officers from Roanoke, Washington and Westmoreland counties and Rutherford County, N.C.
"You guys should really be proud of what you've done," said Frank C. Brewer, a retired state police first sergeant who spent more than a dozen years working in the state's 51-year-old program. "Not everyone can do this."
The usual class of four or five officers tripled this year for a simple reason, said Sgt. Stephen Witt, the statewide canine coordinator.
"We had more people," he said.
The graduating class was actually four classes, one for the trainees, two for narcotics officers and their dogs, and one for patrol officers and their dogs.
One of the narcotics classes was held in Abingdon and included officers from North Carolina as well as state troopers and deputy sheriffs from several counties.
The officers will work with their dogs for about eight to 10 years.
"You sacrificed a lot in the last 13 weeks to arrive at this moment," Witt told the graduates. "This is launching a new point in your career."
He told the officers to never get complacent and to surround themselves with enthusiastic, motivated fellow officers.
"Remember this," he said, "even teachers have teachers. Learn. Use other people's knowledge to your advantage."
After the brief ceremony, the officers and their dogs put on a show for a hundred or so people in the crowd.
Barrak played the role of good sport most of the morning, donning the heavily padded attack suit so he could be attacked.
"It still kind of hurts, but it gets to be fun," he said.