RUPERT, Idaho — He is the first of his kind in the Gem State and many lawmakers did not even know that 'kind' existed upon his Wednesday evening visit to the Idaho Statehouse.
K9 Newton joined the Rupert Police Department in October 2021, but he won't be sniffing out drugs. Newton is trained to detect triphenylphosphine oxide; it's a chemical used in the manufacturing process for digital storage devices like cell phones, hard drives, USB sticks, and more.
"His ability to find things is tremendous," Rupert Police Sgt. Sam Khoha said. "One of the cases we assisted with, he found a cell phone hidden in a pile of dirty laundry in an attic."
Sgt. Khoha has been heavily involved with child exploitation investigations for the better half of a decade. He began reading up on a Utah-based company, Operation Underground Railroad, that assists local law enforcement with child exploitation prevention.
They fund programs that make resources like Newton available.
"They've provided 100% of the funding," Sgt. Kuoha said.
Like any dog, he can get distracted as his hypersensitive nose is picking up every cell phone in every pocket. But Newton knows when to focus according to his handler, Det. Cpl. Travis Freeman.
"He certainly smells it all the time, but he's not in work mode all the time," Det. Cpl. Freeman said.
Rupert Police has deployed the two-year-old Labrador on three occasions. Each time Newton has detected a device that would have taken hours for the department to find through a manual search - if they would have found it at all - according to Sgt. Kuoha.
"With an asset like K9 Newton, we can do that within half an hour," Sgt. Kuoha said.
Det. Cpl. Freeman confirms Newton's primary function is to assist in search warrant efforts to find digital evidence related to child exploitation and pornography; however, Newton will be used in other major crime investigations that have a digital nexus.
Newton is an asset for the whole state, not just the Rupert Police Department. And Rupert PD encourages other law enforcement agencies to reach out if Newton's abilities are needed.
"We knew there wasn't one of these dogs in Idaho. It's something that was desperately needed. So we took the opportunity to find the funding and obtain one of these canines," Sgt. Kuoha said.
Newton is expected to serve as a tool for law enforcement for 5 to 7 years, Det. Cpl. Freeman said.
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