Carson an old hand at drug detection

Jessica CuthbertAlbany Advertiser
Albany Regional Prison’s Drug Detection Unity officer Dawn Kennedy with Carson.
Camera IconAlbany Regional Prison’s Drug Detection Unity officer Dawn Kennedy with Carson. Credit: Laurie Benson/Picture: Laurie Benson, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

He might look adorable, but Carson the Labrador retriever has the frontline responsibility of keeping drugs out of Albany Regional Prison.

Carson and his handler Dawn Kennedy are the only K9 unit in Albany.

While most WA prison officers are men, almost half of the staff members in the Drug Detection Unit are women.

They work in partnership with specially trained dogs to deter, detect and disrupt drugs and other contraband in the prison system.

Albany drug detection officer Dawn Kennedy has been in the role for 13 years at the only maximum security facility outside Perth.

“I enjoy the work because every day is different,” she said.

“You have to be flexible and self-motivated.

“Albany is a maximum security prison, the only regional one, so it made sense to have a unit out here. Now we are just continuing to push for a second dog handler.

“It’s a challenging role for just one handler — you have nobody else to fall back on.

“To have another unit, it would mean we have full seven-day-a week coverage.

“Currently, we don’t.”

Ms Kennedy said her role in the unit was to prevent drugs from entering the prison by doing frequent searches inside and outside the gates.

“Carson and I search incoming mail, workshops, prisoners, incoming local stores and cells and every now and then we walk around the boundary to ensure that contraband has not been thrown over the fence into the prison area,” she said.

“We also search visitors during the week and we perform carpark operations in a bid to stop drugs and other contraband coming in.”

She said it was a challenging yet rewarding role which allowed her to make a link between prison and the community.

“I think it’s important that they don’t see us as a threat,” she said.

“Yes, we are doing our job, stopping the drugs from coming in — but at the same time we are looking after the community’s family on the inside.”

Carson, who was trained by Ms Kennedy from the time he was a pup, is now eight years old and almost due for retirement.

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