Monday, November 14, 2022 marked eight years of service for a loyal member of the Hernando County Sheriff’s office. Justice, a German Shepherd K-9 and his partner, Corporal Stephen Miller, attended a ceremony marking the four-legged “deputy’s” retirement from the force.
Justice was born on June 28, 2013 in Germany and Corporal Miller selected him from a k-9 service in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The two attended patrol school for 16 weeks and hit the road together as a crime fighting team in 2014.
Since that time Justice and Miller have made 125 apprehensions. The team has also assisted in locating missing persons. One of the primary duties K-9 Justice was trained for was locating narcotics.
Between 2015 and 2022 he located 18.5 kilos of marijuana, 695 grams of meth, 3.2 kilos of hashish, 3 grams of heroin, 132.1 grams of cocaine, 41,3 grams of opioids and 24.8 grams of ecstasy.
Some noteworthy apprehensions include an incident in 2015 in which Justice tracked down an armed robbery suspect hiding in a shed. Justice apprehended the suspect and pulled him from the shed. While being pulled out, the suspect pointed his firearm at another deputy. At that time, Miller and the other deputy fired their weapons at the suspect and killed him. During the gunfire, Justice never released the suspect’s leg.
Another incident occurred when Justice and Miller were on duty in their vehicle. Corporal Miller saw a robbery taking place just across the street at an ATM. They went over there and three suspects fled on foot. Two went in one direction and the other went in a different direction. Miller released Justice to apprehend the two suspects that went in the same direction. He chased them through the parking lot, around the building and then disappeared from Miller’s sight. The deputy called him back and he returned with a shoe in his mouth. After dropping the shoe, Justice went back to look for the third suspect whom he quickly located. The suspect refused to comply with Miller’s commands so he was bitten. The next day Miller found out that when Justice went on his first jaunt, he jumped into the getaway car with the two suspects and bit them both and then took the shoe. All three suspects were caught and arrested.
At the retirement ceremony, there was an unveiling of a portrait of Justice that was painted by Corporal Miller’s daughter, Blaire. K-9 Justice was also presented with a Lucite plaque with the following inscription: “Thank you for eight years of ‘pawsome’ service.”
As a retiree, K-9 Justice will do some relaxing in the yard which he’s not very fond of yet and will serve as “chief of security” at the Miller residence. Because he’s been trained to be on alert almost constantly and in the thick of the action, this won’t be an easy transition.
“This [work] is what the dogs live to do, so he’s not looking forward to retirement, like humans are,” Miller remarked
And, although Justice is retiring, Miller will still be on the job. The deputy had a K-9 named Kilo prior to obtaining Justice and soon he’ll be getting another four-legged partner.
“Justice is a happy dog, but when it’s time to do business, he’ll do it,” Miller stated. “He has the type of personality that’s like a light switch. He can turn it off and turn it on.”
He’s not aggressive to people that pose no threat, but when it’s time to go to work catching criminals, he’s ready. And a fugitive on foot is no match for Justice, who can run up to 30 miles an hour for short distances!
Not all law enforcement officers are suited to being K-9 deputies. Obviously, you have to be physically fit because a lot of physical things come into play in being a K-9 handler. You have to be comfortable lifting the dog and running with the dog.
You have to be emotionally stable too, as one K-9 deputy stated, “Sometimes the dogs are like kids so you have to be patient with them. You get attached to them but you have to understand they’re not our pets; they’re a tool. Sometimes you have to send them into harm’s way.”
Corporal Miller is a natural when it comes to being a K-9 deputy, as he concludes, “Every day’s a great day when you’ve got a dog with you.”