It’s time for a break for the paws.
Hunter, the Belgian Malinois who served as the McAlester Police Department’s narcotics-detecting K-9, is stepping down as MPD’s top dog.
“He’s earned it,” said McAlester Police Chief Kevin Hearod.
Hunter is retiring after seven years and four months with the McAlester Police Department, along with his handler, Sgt. Chuck Sutterfield.
If the adage about one year of a dog’s age equals seven human years is true, then Hunter is retiring as a McAlester police officer at the age of 63. To recognize his years of service, MPD is retiring Hunter’s badge.
Hunter’s retirement became official when McAlester city council members unanimously agreed to fire him from the police department and allow Sutterfield to take possession of the dog. Sutterfield is happy that his former partner lives with his family.
They’ve been together almost since they started working together. Not only were they partners with MPD, Sutterfield housed Hunter and cared for him in his own home. They also left home together to carry out their police duties.
“He was with me when I went to work,” Sutterfield said.
Sutterfield’s wife, Tiffani, and their twin children, Carsyn and Camron, were at City Hall so they could be there when Hunter officially retired.
How does the family feel about Hunter now becoming their dog?
“They’re excited,” Sutterfield said. They will get to see more of Hunter now that he will be with the family when Sgt. Sutterfield works.
“Me and Hunter were always gone,” Sutterfield said.
Sutterfield and Hunter worked together as a Criminal Drug Interdiction team from 2015 to 2016, then continued to work as partners on the patrol shift.
Hunter is not a glory dog, but he won his share of well-deserved recognition through his police work.
Sutterfield and Hunter made a traffic stop on US Highway 69 in 2016 that resulted in the arrest of a Michigan woman for transporting approximately five pounds of black tar heroin, two pounds of cocaine and approximately 1,000 ecstasy pills, according to city documents.
It remains the largest seizure of heroin ever made in McAlester. Their work also resulted in more seizures of methamphetamine and other illegal drugs, leading to more felony and misdemeanor cases.
Hunter and Sutterfield worked with a number of law enforcement agencies, including the federal drug agency, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office and the Krebs Police Department.
For their law enforcement services, Sutterfield and Hunter were recognized in 2020 by the Association of Oklahoma Narcotics Enforcement Officers as Region 3 K-9 Officer of the Year.
MPD acquired Hunter in late 2015 through a $9,600 donation through Life Church. Gary Wansick, who served as McAlester police chief at the time, said the donation covered the cost of the dog and training, which came to $6,650, along with a portion of the cost of specialized equipment for the K-9 program, which totaled $3,186.
Others also helped, and Randy Saunier provided a cement slab for the dog’s kennel. An organization called We Drive to Provide donated a first aid kit to Hunter.
Sutterfield became the city’s K-9 handler after Wansick asked him and several other officers if they were interested. After completing the process, Wansick named Sutterfield as Hunter’s designated handler.
“We were primarily assigned to drug interdiction,” Sutterfield noted.
After later moving to patrols with Sutterfield, Hunter remained involved in the community as part of a police presence.
“Once in a while the schools would call us and want us to do a drug investigation,” Sutterfield said
Hunter came full circle with MPD after he and Sutterfield trained at the Little Rock K-9 Academy in Little Rock, Ark. and undertook further team training in Poteau.
They were certified together as a team in 2015 when Hunter was 2 years old — and they’ve been together ever since.
“You get really close to him,” Sutterfield said. “He’s like a member of the family.”
Now, instead of spending the day with Hunter as a partner in his patrol vehicle, Sutterfield can look forward to seeing him when he gets home from work after his patrol shift.
He feels that his nearly seven and a half years with Hunter went by quickly.
“It doesn’t work that long,” Sutterfield said. Still, he feels his longtime partner deserves some well-deserved time off in retirement.
“It’s a good thing,” Sutterfield said. “I think he’s ready for it.”