Minnesota DOC K-9 team wins top honors at national competition

(ABC 6 News) – A Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) K-9 team took top honors at a national narcotics detection competition.

Canine Corrections Officer Cha Vang and his Labrador K-9 partner, Sammi, from Minnesota Correctional Facility (MCF)-Lino Lakes and MCF-St. Cloud took home first place honors at the competition hosted by the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA).

Vang and Sammi scored a perfect score of 200 in two sectors of the national competition: the narcotics room search and the narcotics vehicle search sectors. In both sectors, the officer (handler) and their partner are evaluated on their abilities as a team to search and locate strategically hidden narcotics. Canines are critiqued on their response, alert, and location abilities, while handlers are evaluated on their ability to control and direct the canine and to identify canine behavior changes when narcotic odors are present.

“By participating in a national competition like this, it gives us an opportunity to learn from one another, it gives us an idea of what areas of improvement we need or what standards to strive for,” said Vang. “When all those standards are applied on the job, we are more effective, and at the end of the day it provides for the safety at the DOC and community.”

In the first three months of 2023, Vang and Sammi conducted nearly 200 narcotics searches at MCF-Lino Lakes and MCF-St. Cloud. DOC K9 teams are used daily throughout the agency as frontline detection for narcotics and are used for searches in all areas of a facility, including cells and living units, visiting rooms, and mailrooms.

“Removing drugs from our facilities is extremely important in keeping staff and incarcerated people safe,” said Vang. “Drugs can cause many health and safety concerns and we work incredibly hard to remove these harmful substances from impacting everyone in our facilities.“

The two began working together in 2019. Vang has worked for the agency as a Corrections Officer since 2006.

The USPCA event was held May 7-10 in Evansville, Indiana where 64 canine teams from law enforcement agencies across the United States took part in the competition.