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The Greer Police Department's K-9 unit was formed more than 15 years ago when a black labrador retriever named Murray joined the force. The division once included as many as four patrol dogs, but today is solely in the capable paws of Atos, a German shepherd professionally trained for tracking and drug detection.
"Atos is called out several times a year. If an officer has a suspicion about a car, the dog will be called to come out and do a sniff around it," Capt. Jolene Vancil said. "We don't do a lot of tracking, but he's there if we ever need him. Of course he goes along (with the Emergency Reponse Team) on any raids or search warrant work."
Training is a regular part of the K9 Unit's schedule. Atos, who joined the department late in 2007, and handler Kris Ahler may often be found at the certified training course built by longtime handler Jim Williams to prepare canines for duty and to keep them in top condition to face whatever the job may throw at them..
Atos runs the training course.
Through the oath of office administered by the Mayor, Atos has sworn to protect and serve the citizens of Greer; to assist their handlers in enforcing the law; to search for lost children; to find illegal drugs; to track suspects; and to be goodwill ambassadors for the Greer Police Department. While it brings smiles to the faces of those who witness a dog barking his affirmation of the oath of office, it actually serves an important purpose.
"The dog is now classified as a police officer and anyone who does any injury to him would receive a very similar penalty as if they assaulted a human police officer. We consider hm to be just as much of the department as the humans are," Capt. Vancil said.