SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Protecting the Utah Legislature now in session, isn’t just a job for man alone. The Utah Highway Patrol K9 team trains each week to get a leg up on crime at the Utah State Capitol and across the state. ABC4 News stopped by the training to see how they sniff it out, in this edition of “Behind the Badge.”

When part of your job is protecting the Utah State Capitol, you need to stay on your paws. Sniffing around for drugs, looking for bombs, or chasing down an attacker, each week the K9 team for the Utah Highway Patrol does hours of ongoing training.

“We want to know when that dog indicates that he’s right,” said Sgt. Jimmy Banks, UHP K9 Team Coordinator.

On this day, at the old Utah Driver License Division Building in West Valley City, the coordinator for the State’s 12-dog team said the K9s are training their noses to better find hidden drugs like heroin and cocaine.

“Inside these jars, you’ve got the actual drug, the heroine, and here you’ve got these papers we’ve torn up,” said Banks. “We place those inside the jars… and it kind of soaks up that odor, then we’ll take a portion of that paper and put it out and let the dogs search for it.”

You know the moment the dog finds it.

“They’re going, then all of the sudden, they turn back around, you can see it,” said Banks.

“You can see the wheels turning,” Reporter Brian Carlson replied.

“Yes, exactly,” Banks said.

“We want the dog to be able to search and find just the smallest amount of odor… Essentially you just teach that dog that when he finds that certain odor, he’s going to be rewarded… They live for it, that’s what they want to do,” said Banks.  

Belgian Malinois Bruno, and his handler, Trooper Todd Gillis, are one of the teams safeguarding the state legislature now in session. He said there’s a lot of work for him and the other Capitol dogs to do.

“As the bomb dogs… any mail trucks that come in we’ll go around and sweep those trucks, any mail that comes in we also have the dogs smell those… and then before the House and Senate take the floor, we’ll always do a K9 sweep… That’s the nice thing about being at the Capitol we train every day,” said Todd Gillis, Trooper, UHP.  

Whether they’re called into action at the Capitol or use their nose out on patrol, their team coordinator said the dogs are a huge help to their handlers.

“So, they’re important for us and that’s one of the biggest things that makes me happy is that all this training, all this time that we put into these dogs and what they’re doing, I truly do believe it’s making a difference,” said Banks.

Be it one sniff at a time, this training is molding the UHP K9 team to really sink their teeth into whatever the job entails.  

As you can imagine, this training also comes in handy doing drug busts in traffic stops and searching for explosives in big crowds like concerts and sporting events. If you need to find something or someone, going to the K9 team is barking up the right tree.