Russell Hall, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and his dog, Stryker, are ready to go out on patrol. Hall has been with the OCSO for 10 years. He is part of the canine unit.
By Debby Schamber – For the Record
Russell Hall, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, works with a partner who rides along with him on a daily basis. However, his partner is a dog named Stryker who is a Belgian Malinois.
Together they work patrol as other patrol deputies do. However, Hall and Stryker respond to calls when a dog’s keen sense of smell is needed. This includes when needed by other local agencies.
Hall and Stryker attend annual trainings in order to be certified. The week long training provides learning from real life situations in various scenarios. In addition, Hall has the opportunity to learn different techniques from other handlers.  However, it does not end there. Training is ongoing.
For Hall it all began after graduating from an Oregon high school, Hall joined the army. Hall’s father retired from being a police officer and he knew it was something he wanted to do as well. So, he became a military police officer. He later branched off into working with canines. According to Hall, all canines used in every branch of the military are trained at Lackland Airforce Base. The dogs were trained to find explosives. Once the dog was certified they were shipped out to the units for use.
After serving in the Army, becoming a police officer was the logical next step. He worked for a brief time at another local agency before becoming a deputy for the OCSO. He has been there for 10 years and has advanced to corporal.
Initially, Hall had a dog named Shadow who worked with him. Shadow worked at the OCSO for 9 years before he was retired. He is currently a beloved pet of the Hall family. Along with Stryker and Shadow, the Hall family includes two children and two other dogs who are cocker spaniels.
When Hall is home, Stryker is part of the family. When the family goes camping, so do the dogs. But, when it is time to go back to work, Stryker is eager to go. He patiently waits as Hall prepares for work. But, during the final preparations, Stryker knows it is time to leave. He jumps into the back of the SUV and off they go.
During a traffic stop, the canine unit may be called to the scene if the officer feels there may be drugs in a vehicle. The suspect may have  denied the officer the right to search the vehicle. Hall takes Stryker out of the SUV on a leash for an “open air” search. If Stryker indicates he smells drugs, then the officer has probable cause and then can search the vehicle.
According to Hall, there are two ways a dog can indicate the presence of drugs. The passive dog sits down when he smells drugs while an aggressive dog will scratch at the area.
When Stryker gets close to the odor his behavior changes and he sits when he has located the drugs location. However, it is up to the officer to find the exact location.
In two past drug related instances, Hall and Stryker were called to the scene and helped locate 80 pounds of ecstasy and 100 pounds of marijuana.
For Stryker he loves to find drugs.
“He associates the odor with toys,” Hall said.
So, after he “hits” on drugs, he is rewarded with his toy which is a ball type toy.
He also responds well to praise and commands. When Hall is speaking to Stryker, the dog listens and responds. This is part of his training. Stryker is not an attack dog, but has been trained to bite. This part of his training is used when a suspect is running from the scene. But, it is essential for Stryker to know when to stop as well. If the suspect decides to surrender, then Hall commands the dog to stop.
“He is not a vicious dog,” Hall said. “He bites on command and releases.”
Another part of their duties may be to help locate a missing person. Plus, Stryker is very devoted to Hall and will protect his handler as any partner would.