Trending Topics

Wash. corrections staff adds K-9 to combat drugs in county jail

At the Yakima County jail, K-9 Luka will be used to search housing units, public lobbies and the basement courtrooms for a variety of drugs, including fentanyl and cannabis


Yakima Department of Corrections

By Donald W. Meyers
Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash.

YAKIMA, Wash. — On Monday, Yakima County’s newest corrections officer started patrolling the North Front Street facility.

This new officer, fresh out of training, has a special assignment: His job is to sniff out drugs such as fentanyl in the jail.


Luka, a German shepherd, has completed training with the state Department of Corrections as a drug detection dog.

“Based on our constant battle with fentanyl and other drugs coming into the facility, it is the next logical step,” said jail Chief Bill Splawn.

Since January, the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office has investigated six cases of drugs in the county jail, with no cases in 2023 and three in 2022, said sheriff’s spokesman Casey Schilperoort.

Recently, the last of four people charged with smuggling drugs into the county jail in 2022 was sentenced. Others have been charged with attempting to smuggle drugs into the building.

The state has been training dogs for several years to combat drugs in prisons and other facilities. While dogs in the past have been trained to detect cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and cannabis, the DOC certified its first dog to detect fentanyl last year.

Splawn said he and county Corrections Director Jeremy Welch approached the Department of Corrections about getting a trained dog for the jail. Luka and his handler were supposed to have started training in May, but they were able to move it up and graduate last week.

Luka passed his test, with a 95% score on his final exam, which Splawn said is outstanding.

At the jail, Luka will be used to search housing units, public lobbies and the basement courtrooms for a variety of drugs, including fentanyl and cannabis.

While some departments, such as the Yakima police, have moved away from drug-sniffing dogs due to legalization of cannabis, Splawn said they are ideal for a jail environment.

“Those things are still illegal inside the jail,” Splawn said.

The Yakima County Sheriff’s Office has a drug-sniffing dog named Remington on patrol.

The K9 Foundation Yakima Valley helped the department with the cost of acquiring and outfitting Luka, normally a $10,000 cost. Splawn said the county paid $2,500 and covered Luka’s handler’s costs to attend the training.

Luka will also be available to assist in other local jails, such as the Yakima and Sunnyside jails, Splawn said.


(c)2024 Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.)
Visit Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.