By Eugenia Jones
Federal Law Enforcement Officer Allan Neal is a familiar McCreary County face filling the vacancy created when Officer Tim Grooms retired earlier this year. Neal, a lifelong McCreary Countian, has served with the United States Forest Service for 18 ½ years as a Wildland Firefighter, Forest Protection Officer, and Law Enforcement Officer.
Prior to his work with the United States Forest Service (USFS), Neal worked for McCreary County EMS and was a volunteer assistant chief at the Whitley City Fire Department. His experience as a volunteer firefighter led him to become a wildland firefighter with the Forest Service. In 2003, Neal began his law enforcement career with the Forest Service as a Forest Protection Officer. In 2006, Neal continued his work with the Forest Service graduating from the Federal Law Enforcemnt Academy in Glynco, Georgia where he became a fully qualified federal law enforcement officer. Neal worked on the Stearns Ranger District from 2006-2008 as a wildland firefighter and law enforcement officer. In 2008, he transferred to the Cumberland Ranger District as a full time law enforcement officer where he spent 10 ½ years working in the Red River Gorge area. In 2018, Neal transferred to the Red Bird District and, earlier this year, was happy to transfer back to the Stearns Ranger District.
“It’s great to be back and work at home where I grew up and where I have lived all of my life,” Neal said. “My family is here, and It’s good to be here with people I know. It’s also nice to work alongside officers in other agencies that I know and have worked with in the past.”
It also doesn’t hurt to be back home in McCreary County as it is advantageous to Neal’s hobbies of hunting, fishing, and enjoying time with his grandkids.
According to Neal, the law enforcement aspect of working through Forest Service is unique in that officers get to cover all aspects of law enforcement. UFSF law enforcement officers deal with everything from timber and fire investigations to speeding.
“We enforce all federal and state laws on federal property,” Neal explained. “We also have authority on roadways going through federal property. We are one of the few with both state and federal authority.”
Neal is also unique in that he is a half of a K-9 unit. His partner, a Belgium Malinos, is Neal’s second K-9 partner. A poster-sized photo of Neal’s first partner, a German Shepherd named Packo, is prominently displayed in Neal’s office.
“I lost Packo to lung cancer,” Neal said. “It was really hard on me. That dog is the partner you are with every day, and he really saved me a few times. I hesitated about taking another dog after that.”
Neal has been a K-9 handler for twelve years. Both of his dogs came from Germany.
“When I finally decided to take another dog, I chose her from a vendor in Ohio,” Neal remarked. “I watched her on a video and thought she was a good dog. The vendor brought her over from Germany and finished her training.”
Neal’s partner is trained in patrol, narcotics, apprehension, officer protection, tracking, and articles. She is now 7 ½ years old and has been with Neal for five years. Neal’s K-9 partner has her own badge and credentials and is, in every way, a full law enforcement officer.
“She is a dog who loves to work and is very protective of me and her vehicle,” Neal observed.
Neal’s law enforcement vehicle is designed to meet his K-9 partner’s needs.
“It has her kennel plus temperature control monitors,” Neal shared. “If the air conditioning were to quit working, alarms would go off if the temperature got too high. If that happens, the blue lights automatically go on and the windows go down.”
Neal said the biggest adjustment to being part of a K-9 unit is that the dog impacts all parts of an officer’s life-both professional and personal.
“You always have to plan around the dog especially if you go anywhere,” Neal noted. “Your dog is the priority when it comes to your personal life.”