February 24, 2018–The Yuma County Sheriff’s Office is preparing to launch its first ever canine program. The need for this type of resource in our county is apparent, and the Sheriff’s Office diligently began researching and pursuing this project within the last 3-4 years. With the recent culmination of several high-profile narcotics investigations, came a rather significant outpouring of community support, specifically for narcotics detection canines. The support has come in several forms, including monetary donations and promises of donated services and equipment related to a canine program from concerned citizens and community organizations. What propelled the Sheriff’s Office’s canine program forward was the volunteerism of a local citizen.
Paul and Kimberly McCombs moved to the Wray area six months ago after Kimberly accepted a position with the Melissa Memorial Hospital in Holyoke in order to be closer to her father and mother, Larry and Fran Crites of Wray. Born and raised in Golden, Colorado, Paul McCombs is a 13 year veteran of the Air Force with 27 years of law enforcement experience, and is a Master Canine Instructor that has trained and deployed K9 teams while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. McCombs was motivated to become a Master Canine Instructor in 1993 when his own K9, “Rock” was killed while he was working for the Mayesville Police Department (SC). Convinced of the value that a canine program brings to law enforcement, McCombs began training and donating canines throughout the United States to law enforcement agencies that could not afford to start a K9 Unit on their own.
McCombs was sworn in by Sheriff Chad Day this month as a member of the Sheriff’s Office Posse, with the intent of volunteering his time and resources to assist the Sheriff’s Office in beginning a canine program at little to no cost to the County. Sheriff Day and Undersheriff Adam Wills, who has over three years of experience himself as a part of the K9 Unit with the Weld County Sheriff’s Office, have put together a plan that will source rescue dogs from local and regional shelters to be trained and certified by McCombs in narcotics detection and tracking functions.
The canine program will begin with a pilot canine owned by McCombs; a 140 pound Cané Corso (Italian Mastiff) named “Chief.” “Chief” is currently in training and is expected to be certified in narcotics detection within 6 weeks. The Sheriff’s Office plans to have an unknown number of its own canines in service within the next few months. Sheriff Day hopes to source at least one bloodhound as part of the program, citing that the breed has been successful in other areas around the state in solving property crimes such as residential and commercial burglaries and scrap metal thefts. Bloodhounds have a unique skill-set that allows them to track human scent over many miles, which also makes them invaluable for locating missing persons, runaway juveniles, nursing home walk-aways, and lost hunters.
“I am really excited to announce the kick-off of a canine program for the Sheriff’s Office,” said Sheriff Day. “This has been a goal of ours for a very long time, and the circumstances now exist to see it happen for much cheaper than we originally researched. I am without any doubt that this program will immediately have a noticeable impact on drug and property crimes in our community. Paul is an invaluable resource to us, and this project couldn’t have been a reality without him.” McCombs stated that he is elated to be a part of the Wray Community and looks forward to protecting and serving the citizens of Yuma County as a volunteer.