Richland County Sheriff’s Department to host 12th-annual Guardians of the Night

Deputies and K9s will race in the popular 5K alongside Midlands-area runners, many participating with their pet dogs

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Registration is open for the 12th annual GUARDIANS OF THE NIGHT, a 5K road race in support of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s (RCSD) K9 teams (dogs and handlers), Saturday evening, July 29.

Runners of all skill levels, including walkers many with their dogs, will join Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, RCSD deputies, K9 handlers and their dogs in the 3.1-mile, multi-block nighttime road race beginning and ending at the S.C. State Fairgrounds and winding along Bluff Road and Rosewood Drive in Columbia.

“We are expecting another great turnout including numbers of both participants and those simply supporting us,” says Sheriff Lott. “In recent years, participants have exceeded well over 500 which clearly demonstrates how much our communities care about our K-9s and their handlers. This means so much to all of our men and women in uniform. It will be a great race and, as always, a lot of fun for all.”

Participants are to enter at Gate 11 (Bluff Road side) which opens at 7:00 p.m. The first event, a family run/walk, kicks off at 8:30 p.m. sharp, followed by the signature 5K run which begins at 9:30 p.m. The family-run will not be “timed,” whereas the 5K will be. An awards ceremony will follow the 5K.

All proceeds from Guardians of the Night go toward RCSD K-9 safety equipment, collars, leads (special long leashes used for tracking), custom-fitted ballistic vests, and food. The race is also held in honor of RCSD’s K9 Fargo who lost his life in the line of duty in 2011.

RCSD currently fields 24 trained K-9s – 15 full-service patrol dogs and nine single-service dogs – capable of tracking suspects, protecting their handlers, locating missing persons, and sniffing out drugs. Of the nine single-service dogs, five are trained for search and rescue operations. One is trained to detect explosive devices. One is an electronics detection K9 capable of sniffing out memory cards, computer hard drives, cameras and other devices used, for instance, in child pornography cases. One is an article-search K9 (trained to search for discarded weapons, etc.), and one is a community K9 (visiting schools, churches, assisted living facilities, etc.).

The RCSD K9s include several German shepherds and Belgian Malinois, one Dutch shepherd, one English Labrador and an American Labrador.

Sponsors for this year’s Guardians of the Night include Walmart (Forest Drive location), Sensor Enterprises, B106.7, Lamar Advertising, Montgomery Construction, CVETS, Palmetto Citizens Federal Credit Union, KW Beverage, Airworx Heating & Air Conditioning, Roberts Towing and Transport, Roberts Towing and Recovery, South Carolina Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Care, Parker Law, Shealy Truck Center, CAHEC Management, Forest Drive Dental Care, Columbia Children’s Dentistry, Warren Avenue Investors LLC, Leigh Leventis Attorney at Law, Crowe LaFave Garfield & Bagley, Tick Tock Dr., and Groucho’s Deli.

– For more information and to register, please visit