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Crime-fighting canine retired with honors

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

A seasoned member of the Clayton County Police Department, Max, a canine police officer, has seen his fair share of battles.

In five and a half years on the force, Max has helped seize $1,084,813 in cash, $105,000 in jewelry, 28 vehicles, 36,061 grams of cocaine, 5,709 pounds of marijuana, 1,016 grams of methamphetamine, 141 grams of heroine, and 5,567 ecstasy tablets.

After dislocating a kneecap during a training exercise last year, Max will be retired from the force with honors later this month.

Jodi Turnipseed, a Clayton County Police officer, has been Max's handler for the entire time Max has been on the force. She said Max's endurance has suffered since his injury last year.

"He has a dislocated kneecap on his back, left leg," said Turnipseed. "We were just doing a training exercise. I just threw his toy and I heard it snap when he was going for his toy.

"He went through light duties and [medications] and the vet said in March of this year, he needed surgery to fix the problem," Turnipseed continued. "He obviously tires on lengthy tracks, so based on that, we are retiring him."

Max, a Belgian Malinois by breed, is "nothing but a working dog," according to Turnipseed. The breed is the preferred dog of the Israel Defense Forces, due to its ability to deliver the power of other shepherd breeds, despite having a slighter build than German Shepherds and Rottweilers. Belgian Malinois also tend to have thinner, neutral-colored coats, making them less prone to heatstroke.

Despite his injuries, Max continues to display a desire to work, according to Turnipseed. On Friday, Max helped seize $300,000 in cash during a customs case at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. While drug searches are his forte, Max has also tracked down and brought to justice two murder suspects during his career.

Turnipseed added that while Max has completed 18 successful criminal apprehensions, he has done so without biting a single suspect.

Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner said Max has been a "great asset" to the Police Department.

"The handler and the dog work superbly together," said Turner. "He has located several suspects, tracking them through the woods.

"There was a suspect that was hiding underneath a car, and they had been looking through the neighborhood for 30 or 40 minutes," Turner continued. "Max was the one who actually found the suspect. We were able to make an arrest without further incident.

"Because this dog served with honor and integrity, it's just like another officer," Turner said. "He deserves to live the rest of his life in retirement."

Turner said the department plans to throw a retirement party for Max in the near future. In the meantime, Max will retire from the force and go home to live with Turnipseed, who has handled Max since he was a puppy.

"He's a ball of energy," said Turnipseed. "Even though he has injuries and things like that, it doesn't affect his desire to play and get into the mix of things.

"He's coming home," said Turnipseed. "You don't break that bond."