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Lexington Police Department using high-tech K9 in effort to keep people safer at major public events

A new four-legged officer is helping the Lexington Police Department sniff out explosives and possible threats to public safety.

Residents and visitors will now see Tilly, a Vapor Wake K9, working major community events around Lexington.

“Today it is necessary for cities and communities to prepare for every situation,” Mayor Jim Gray said. “Having Tilly at events and venues attracting major crowds to Lexington will allow us to provide an extra level of security and hopefully an added sense of safety for our citizens and guests.”

K9 Tilly and her handler, Officer Jarvis Harris, trained together for several months (Photo Provided)

Tilly is a two-year-old black Labrador specifically bred and trained for Vapor Wake, a patented technology developed by Auburn University. Unlike other explosive detection canines that are mainly trained on stationary objects, Vapor Wake dogs can detect small amounts of explosives on stationary or moving targets, such as someone wearing or carrying explosives.

“Tilly is a friendly dog. She’s designed to work unobtrusively in crowds or busy areas,” Police Chief Mark Barnard said. “The community can expect to see Tilly and her handler working at sporting events, concerts, parades and other events.”

At-large Urban County Councilmember Kevin Stinnett advocated for the city’s investment in a Vapor Wake dog. He is also a member of Lexington Center Board of Directors, which oversees Rupp Arena, the Lexington Convention Center and the Lexington Opera House.

“I recently had the opportunity to train with Tilly at Fayette Mall, and it was amazing how quickly she was able to pick up the scent of what I was carrying, even as I was walking with other people around me,” Stinnett said. “We hope Lexington will never see a legitimate threat involving explosives, but our community is taking proactive steps to be ready when necessary.”

The Council approved funds from Stinnett’s portion of the Council Capital Projects Fund to purchase and train a Vapor Wake dog. The investment is expected to help protect Lexington for many years to come. Vapor Wake dogs are generally able to have longer working careers than traditional police canines.

K9 Tilly and her handler, Officer Jarvis Harris, trained together for several months. They are Vapor Wake certified by the company AMK9 and also certified in the National Odor Recognition Test Standard (NORT) by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Officer Harris is also a member of the department’s Hazardous Devices Unit.

“Tilly is a playful but hardworking partner. She helps me as a bomb technician and is skilled in detecting a wide range of explosives,” Harris said.

When they’re not working, Tilly and Officer Harris train three to five times a week for several hours a day.

From Lexington Police Department Communications

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