Go inside Port Arthur Officer Tiffany Williams’ process for training K9 Athena

Published 12:20 am Saturday, March 9, 2024

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Athena may only be 7 months old, but she’s well on her way to earning her spot with the Port Arthur Police Department.

Her handler, Officer Tiffany Williams, along with several others, are preparing the Belgian Malinois for work as a narcotics K9. The goal is for Athena to serve a dual purpose with the department as a patrol dog.

This isn’t the first K9 for Williams. Current partner Reyna is getting older and had her ACL and meniscus replaced. She, too, is a Belgian Malinois.

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Knowing Reyna would soon retire; Williams struck out on her own to find another dog. She knew it would be a lengthy and expensive process to find a dog already trained.

She began calling around Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, New York and eventually found a kennel in Tennessee with nationally recognized owners with experience with military and police dogs.

Fast forward four months to a recent Port Arthur City Council meeting, where leaders accepted the in-kind donation of K9 Athena.

The K9, Athena

Williams, who previously served as a telecommunications officer and is going on six years as a police officer, has been a K9 handler for a little more than a year.

“My goal with her is to make her a patrol dog. She’ll be a dual-purpose dog, narcotics and apprehension work. And at 7 months old, she’s already doing both and well, which is amazing,” Williams said.

Even though Reyna and Athena are the same breed, Williams got Reyna a little more than a year ago, as the K9 had a previous owner.

Athena is still a puppy and being trained primarily by Williams, along with another PAPD handler and a handler from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

And with a non-police dog, there is also obedience training mixed in.

The goal, Williams said, is for Athena to become certified in narcotics at 10 months old.

This requires lots of training, some of which she takes part in with one of the other K9 handlers and with

a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office K9 officer.

The county performs National Narcotic Detector Dog Association certification, which Williams said is one of the harder certifications to achieve.

“It’s extremely hard on obedience. You have to be able to call your dog off an apprehension, do perfect track, do perfect narcotic work. It’s training after training after training after training,” she said.

Port Arthur Police Chief Tim Duriso said K9s are an important part of the department as they can be used in crime scenes and in public relations, such as meeting school children.

And as Athena will be dual purpose, having a narcotics dog assists officers in searching areas a regular officer isn’t able to.

Officer Williams

Williams set a goal for herself years ago, setting the course for where she is now.

She spent two-and-a-half years in dispatch and waited to go to the police academy and learn. Now she is a field training officer, as well.

“Training new people, I can stress the importance of the radio traffic,” she said. “I can explain to them just because patrol might not be busy, doesn’t mean dispatch isn’t busy. They have non-emergency lines, after hours calls, fire department, medical calls and I’ll get to show them that aspect of it.”