Produced and Directed by Jack Webb
Written by Burt Prelutsky
Director Of Photography: Alric Edens
CAST: Jack Webb (Sgt. Joe Friday), Harry Morgan (Office Bill Gannon), Don Dubbins (Bob Buesing), Clark Howat (Capt. Al Trembly), Ginger
Airdate: January 30, 1969
This post is part of The Jack Webb Blogathon, a celebration of his huge, and hugely influential, body of work. For more Webb on the web, appearing October 17-19, visit Dispatch (or click on the banner above).
When Presley was five or six or so, she discovered reruns of Dragnet and Adam-12. She was quickly hooked–and so were her parents. Since Presley’s responsible for my rekindled interest in Webb and his work (and therefore this blogathon), I was really excited that she wanted to play along. She’s 13 now and picked a favorite episode to write about. — Toby, proud dad
My favorite episode of Dragnet is episode 16 of Season 3 (1969) – “Narcotics: DR-21.”
It’s Tuesday, March 8th. Sergeant Friday and Officer Gannon are working out of the Narcotics Division. It has been a busy day. It is seeming like it’s impossible to find the marijuana going through the Los Angeles airport without searching through every suitcase and parcel. They were asked to try a new machine that scans boxes, but it only detects metal and would only find drugs packaged in foil. “We’re not dogs, we can’t sniff it out,” Gannon comments, giving Friday an idea. Friday snaps his fingers and says, “Dogs!”
They start searching through the yellow pages until they find “Continental Dogs.” After a detailed phone conversation with the company, the owner, Robert Buesing, says give him at least three months and he could try to train a dog to find pot.
This may not have been “Continental Dogs” way, but this is how they train drug sniffers now.
How are dogs turned into drug sniffers? Almost every one chosen is an unneutered male from England (because they have strict breeding guidelines). They are very expensive, but are always paid for by drug money that came from previous drug busts made by dogs. Awesome! Once they arrive in the United States, they immediately start training. The K-9 officer assigned to the dog will be it’s owner and trainer.
First, they play a game of tug-o-war with a towel. Once the dog is excited about the game, a bag of marijuana is hidden in the towel. The dog then associates the smell of pot with having fun. The officer then hides the toy and the dog sniffs it out. When he finds it, he gets to play. After a while, different drugs are put in the towel, which the dog then associates all drug smells with playing.
Just three weeks later, Buesing of “Continental Dogs” has three dogs trained. They may or may not succeed in trial. A small bag of marijuana is wrapped in cellophane, foil, wrapping paper and burlap and then, hidden in some grass. Igor, Wolfie and Hoeshee, the three trained dogs, are run around and they completely ignore the command to seek – which meant “find the pot.” Buesing then remembers Ginger, a German Shepherd, who had a cold during most of her training, but was his last resort.
Her turn to locate the drugs proved successful. She found it three different times during three different trials (once under a car’s hubcap, once buried in the dirt and once in one of three boxes).
Why is the pot hidden in such an elaborate way?
Drug smugglers are not very smart, obviously, but they greatly underestimate the canine’s powerful sense of smell. They believe if they hide it in something with a strong scent, such as perfume, coffee or thick layers of material, the dogs won’t find it. They are wrong. Dog noses are invincible, being that they are 50 times more sensitive than humans.
Even though Friday and Gannon believed in every way that a dog could be trained to carry police work to a new level, many others didn’t. They would have to prove to a judge that their prototype, Ginger, was a reliable source or tool, in order to issue a search warrant in a case where she could be used. The chemist at the police department designed a test, where he arranged 16 substances on numbered plates. To throw her off and prove or disprove that she could be distracted from her mission, plate 10 held dog food. Plate 13 was the marijuana with the remaining plates having fake marijuana (so much like pot that it could confuse experts.) After being walked around the table of plates, she motioned towards one – it was number 13!
A few days later, another test was administered and it was very difficult. Friday, Gannon and Ginger arrive at the testing facility, a warehouse full of boxes. A small amount of pot was wrapped in wax paper, foil and cellophane, then triple-boxed and taped shut. This was done to five packages and they were each randomly hidden in the warehouse. She found them all in less than ten minutes.
Meanwhile, as everyone is talking about how great Ginger is, something excites her in a scrap pile of straw and busted crates. Everyone is silent, until she comes out with an envelope of marijuana. A detective steps up and announces that he planted the envelope and was impressed with the dog. He and the others are convinced that Ginger will be an asset to police searches if they can make it official.
Two weeks later, the Chief finds a way to test Ginger in the field. A search warrant has already been served and police are dumbfounded to not be able to find the drugs that they are convinced are hidden in the residence. Friday takes Ginger on her first assignment. She is allowed to go, since the warrant was already in effect, even though she is unofficial. After a short time, she reacts to a light switch cover and the suspects in the room start to sweat. Friday takes off the cover, finds a string and starts to pull out links of pot bricks and a pot baggy at the end. “Five bricks and one lid,” says Friday. Ginger got the job!
If Friday and Ginger were working today, this what they would do.
Everyday, on the job, the dog goes and sniffs out schools, businesses and other suspicious places. They are called drug sweeps. When the dog finds the drugs, he gets to play (of all things!) Every one to two weeks, the officer and his dog have to go endure an 8 hour class to make sure the dog is still sharp and to also start teaching him new skills – search and rescue techniques, for example.
Trial was held on September 8th out of Department 184 in LA county. Leon “Pork” Hardy and Charles Blake Anderson are tried and convicted getting no less than six years and no more than 10. Ginger was so good at her job, drug dealers tried to have her killed.
Jack Webb: “Ginger, the German shepherd seen on Dragnet, is not a show dog but is actually an employee of the Los Angeles police department and is used for ferreting marijuana.” (San Mateo Times, 1969)
I love dogs and Dragnet – weird combination, but that’s why I love this episode so much. A dog is the hero. It’s too bad, Friday didn’t get to chew anyone out.
Would you like to help a dog like Ginger today? If so, please go to www.vestadog.org to help buy bullet and stab proof vests for today’s police dogs. Every day, hundreds of devoted canines go to work for the police, military and search and rescue teams. They risk their lives for us by trying to find people at-large, missing persons, drugs, weapons, bombs, etc. This lifestyle is dangerous for anybody. The least we can do for these loyal “officers” is to protect them from potential harm. I think Sergeant Friday would agree. Dom, da, dom, dom, dom.
Remember the names were changed to protect the innocent — and the furry.