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Drug dog, two officers join MPD ranks

A four-legged foreigner was among three new employees of the Medford Police Department announced Thursday at a City Council meeting.

"Libby's a 16-month-old springer spaniel imported from Ireland," Chief Tim George told the council as the dog strained against her leash, held by her handler, Officer Flynt Pierce.

George said Libby was hired to replace Cody, an narcotics dog who had been partnered with Officer Levi Friend. Cody, a black Labrador, had been trained to detect methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.

"Cody, unfortunately, was trained to identify marijuana, as well," George said, explaining that the passage of ballot Measure 91, which legalized possession of marijuana for recreational purposes, made the dog's further use legally complicated. Cody will continue to live with Friend.

Libby, on the other hand, is a three-odor dog, trained to detect only meth, coke and heroin. George said the department is retaining one four-odor dog — a Belgian Malinois named Narc — for use in money laundering and package interdiction cases.

Libby joins two new human officers recently hired by the department, both lateral transfers from law enforcement agencies outside the state.

Ben Sandu comes to the department after starting his law enforcement career with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department in California, following a tour in the U.S. Marine Corps at bases in California and Japan.

Daniel Swift, a former Navy SEAL who transferred to MPD after a little less than two years with the Washington State Patrol, is originally from Jacksonville. George said lateral hires are a boon to the department because they've already graduated from accredited law enforcement academies, requiring only Oregon-specific legal training before they hit the streets with an MPD field training officer.

Pierce said his partnership with Libby is his first K-9 assignment. "It's more of a learning curve for me than anything," he said outside council chambers, as the dog basked in attention from council members.

George, who said Libby comes from a bloodline of upland bird hunting dogs, couldn't resist poking fun at her country of origin.

"In her downtime, she enjoys Four Daughters (Irish Pub) and watching Riverdance," he joked.

Reach reporter Thomas Moriarty at 541-776-4471, or by email at tmoriarty@mailtribune.com. Follow him at @ThomasDMoriarty.

Medford police Officer Flynt Pierce introduces Libby, the department's new drug search dog, to the Medford City Council Thursday. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell