a collage of 5 officers with with dogs
The five officers and deputies and their canine partners from three agencies are the first to complete the program at Beaufort CCC.

Beaufort CCC Celebrates Inaugural Patrol K-9 Class Graduation

Beaufort County Community College celebrated the successful completion of its first-ever Patrol K-9 class, marking a new venture in law enforcement training. The graduating officers, hailing from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, Rocky Mount Police Department, and Warren County Sheriff's Office, completed an intensive 14-week program, accumulating 540 hours of specialized training. Beaufort CCC is one of only a few colleges in Eastern North Carolina offering the program.

Greg Van Essendelft/K-9 Tinnus and Linwood Waters/K-9 Athos of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, Michael Cotton Jr./K-9 Forrest and Robert Simmons/K-9 Bacca of the Rocky Mount Police Department, and Darrell Powell/K-9 Ivor of the Warren County Sheriff's Office completed the program.

The Patrol K-9 program at Beaufort County Community College is a new initiative aimed at enhancing the capabilities of law enforcement agencies in finding missing people or suspects using highly trained canine units. Cliff Hales, director of law enforcement programs at Beaufort CCC, said that the college started offering the program help the trainees get college credit for the large amount of hours they spent in training. The graduates took time away from their homelife or families for the training and have now taken on the full-time responsibility of their canine partner.

Ken Mathias of Orchard Knoll K-9 taught the course for the college. Mathias has spent his 45-year career teaching units from the Raleigh Police Department and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

“It's not just a 12-hour shift, and you go home to your family,” said Mathias. “It's a 24-hour shift, seven days a week, 365 days a year because your canine best friend and partner are in the back seat of your car. They don't work on the same schedule that would work, as you guys know, you have to keep them engaged. These animals live to work.”

Linwood Waters offered comments on behalf of the class and expressed the difficulty of being away from his family for an extended period during the training and the comradery the group built during that time.

Mathias also awarded the Gold Collar Award to Greg Van Essendelft, who sustained the most bites from his dog Tinnus during the training.

The 14-week program covered obedience training, drug detection, suspect apprehension, and daytime and nighttime search and rescue techniques. The extensive 540 hours of training ensured that each officer and their K-9 partner developed a strong bond and effective communication, fostering a seamless integration into their respective law enforcement agencies.

In addition to mastering K-9 handling skills, the graduates also received education on ethical considerations and community engagement strategies.

Beaufort CCC looks forward to the continued success of its Patrol K-9 program, anticipating future classes that will further contribute to the training of regional law enforcement agencies.