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  • Last modified 205 days ago (March 29, 2018)

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Karma: man’s best friend...

Criminal’s worst nightmare

Staff writer

Sheriff’s deputy Bronson Shipman carries typical trappings of his profession while on duty- handcuffs, a radio, a protective bullet proof vest- all necessities for someone whose job it is to ensure safety to county citizens.

However, Shipman also has something on his side that other law enforcement officers in the county do not: Karma.

Shipman’s Karma isn’t mystical. It weighs between 75-80 pounds, is intelligent, full of energy, and is bad news for anyone in possession of an illegal substance.

Karma is a 2-and-a-half-year-old female Belgian Malinois, and highly trained to serve alongside Shipman as the K-9 unit for the county.

“I like drug investigations,” said Shipman. “I’m big on getting narcotics out of Marion County. And this county does have a problem that needs addressed.”

With diligence, patience, nightly training sessions, and a little love, Karma and Shipman do just that.

“We do obedience training on a nightly basis,” he said.

According to Shipman, the time spent training with Karma goes beyond teaching her the skills necessary to identify and alert on illegal narcotics.

“It’s for bonding, as well as for her to gain trust in me and for me to gain confidence in her,” he said.

While training looks similar to a game of fetch, Shipman said he never calls it that.

“I want her to obey a command,” he said. “Sometimes she’s a little stubborn but she’s getting better.”

Karma looks forward to her training every night, evident by how excited she gets, he said.

As he released the door for Karma to get some training time at Peabody City Park on Sunday, it was obvious what Shipman was referring to.

She immediately began spinning in circles and looking up at her best friend as if to say, “Okay, let’s do this!”

Shipman says like most people, occasionally Karma doesn’t feel like clocking in.

“She’s young and I’m new,” he said. “She tests me sometimes, especially when it comes time to go to work and she doesn’t feel like it. She won’t get in the car and at times it’s frustrating, but she’s a valuable asset and we’ve bonded well.”

Shipman said along with the help of the people he works with, Karma’s skills are put to the test often.

Two to three times a week, Shipman hides one of his own narcotic odors in a vehicle, and occasionally he’ll enlist his co-workers to hide the odors so their location is a mystery even to him.

“I’m all about constructive criticism,” he said. “It’s called a blind hide. They’re even amazed and I get shocked sometimes too because we’re both still new. But nearly 100 percent of the time she alerts where it is. It has so much to do with trusting your dog and developing a relationship with your dog.”

Shipman keeps a sample of four illegal substances Karma is trained to identify in jars- methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. He then takes either a paper towel or cotton ball and puts it in the jar so it absorbs the scent. This is what is used to put Karma’s skills to the test.

While Karma hones in more and more on her specified skill set and her accuracy grows, so does the love between her and her handler.

“I have full blown conversations with her in the car,” Shipman said. “I make sure I let her know what’s going on and the thought process behind what we do,” he added with a grin.

In order for the duo to be effective, Shipman has also had to become educated on the appropriate and legal situations in which to use his K-9 unit.

“The laws limit what we can and cannot do,” he said. “There are certain things we have to know what we’re looking for. I’ve got a good group of guys I work with on my shift. There fresh guys, and we all work together to develop team work.”

Shipman is an Army veteran and remains active in the Kansas Army National Guard. Upon getting out of the Army after two deployments, Shipman has worked in the jail, and served as Florence police chief until he came to the sheriff’s department in 2014.

Shipman said that being in the military set him up for his love of law enforcement.

“I love my job,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

And with a partner like Karma watching his six, who could blame him?

Last modified March 29, 2018

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