KCSO’s Top K-9 Team: Deputies Hitz & Neyland

Tom KingGibbs/Corryton, Our Town Heroes

Today’s the day to tell you about a “pair” of heroes – Tyler Hitz and Neyland. Both are deputies for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). They work side-by-side. They work together, live together and play together. But when it’s time to flip the switch, these two are “on it” – and work begins.

K-9 Deputy Neyland

Hitz and K-9 Neyland were recently honored as the KCSO K-9 Team of the Year for 2023. Here’s why:

“The pair received K-9 of the Month six times in 2023 with over 220 K-9 deployments. Their work ethic as a team is evident in their stats, but more importantly, Officer Hitz and Neyland give back to the community even on their days off. They set an example of kindness, humility and hard work.”

The 220 deployments surpassed the second-place by 80, said Sgt. James Trout, one of two KCSO K-9 trainers along with Sgt. Chris Wallace. Here are a few of this team’s numbers from 2023:

  • 220 deployments (answering calls)
  • 60 criminal apprehensions
  • 101 arrests
  • Thousands in dollars of drug and asset seizures (value of drugs and vehicles used to transport the drugs, etc.)

“The statistics Tyler and K-9 Neyland achieved this year were unmatched by any peer and have set the bar for the future extremely high,” Wallace said. “Tyler’s relentless work ethic and dedication to his job and his dog have proven him to be a tremendous asset to the K-9 unit.”

And Trout added these special words about Hitz: “His determination is incredible. He’s the guy you want to model your unit after.” And the unit has 19 K-9 teams, Trout says.

Hitz, 34, joined KCSO in 2015 and worked three years at the Roger D. Wilson Detention Center in Corrections and in 2018 was assigned as a patrol deputy. In 2022, he and Neyland graduated from the 12-week KCSO K-9 Training Academy. Hitz is a native of Cincinnati and Neyland, 3 years old, is a 74-pound Malinois from Munich, Germany.

“Most people think he’s a German Shepherd, but he’s a beautiful Malinois and he’s the perfect well-rounded dog for this job. He’s good around people and a great pet at home,” Hitz said. “He’s got the switch and knows the difference when it’s time to work and time to play. He barks only on command and he’s a little hyper at times.”

Neyland fits in perfectly with the Hitz family at their home in Gibbs. Wife Chancey and their son, Rowen, 13, love him right along with their two Labrador Retrievers, Apollo and Luna. They’re all house pooches but Neyland and the labs “keep their distance from each other,” Hitz says.

The deputy says the major award surprised him. “I have a great K-9 and we are great partners,” Hitz says.

He calls Neyland a “dual purpose” K-9 as opposed to a single purpose K-9 used only for sniffing and locating explosives. “Neyland is a drug sniffing dog, tracks down criminals and helps find people who have wandered off or kids who get lost. He locates bodies, assists in all types of arrests, responds to residential alarms and burglaries and people resisting arrest,” he says. “He can do it all.”

Based on the award, it appears Hitz can do it all, too.

A career in law enforcement entered his mind when he took a high school elective class in criminal justice. “We had officers and lawyers come talk to us and it became very real to me what they did and why. I was impressed with their passion and that sold me on a career.”

After college, he spent time visiting an aunt in Johnson City and he fell in love with Tennessee. “Plus, my dad didn’t go to UT but he’s been a diehard Vol fan forever. I came down to visit Knoxville and knew this was for me. I love the city and moved here in 2013.”

A trip to the ballfield

Hitz took Neyland to visit the stadium he’s named after. “We just walked around the stadium in and out and spent a lot of time there. I wanted to take him out on the field but the crew said ‘No way’ so that didn’t happen.”

A couple of times, he feared for his and Neyland’s lives. “On one a guy had a weapon pulled out and something could have gone horribly wrong but he decided not to use the gun. My gun was drawn and Neyland was ready. When he lowered his weapon, I thanked God,” Hitz remembers.

Domestic violence calls are the ones all law enforcement officers dread. “Things are usually already pretty heated and tense when we get there to hopefully calm things down. You work to reason with them, the couples, and you talk about consequences. But they can get violent fast. So far on these calls the Good Lord has been watching over me.”

In this job, Sgt. Wallace said: “It’s human nature to get rattled and nervous. Lots of things can and do happen. That said, Tyler can’t be rattled ever. He’s never upset by anything and he always has tremendous patience. Great quality to have in this job.”

From a high school class in Cincinnati to his KCSO career … great ride so far.

“I absolutely made the right choice for my career. I love every bit of it and I’ve not once had a second thought. The way my shift works I get four days off at a time and after that fourth day Neyland and I are both ready to get back in the car and get back after it.”

No surprises there.

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia. If you have someone you think we should consider featuring, please email him at the link with his name or text him at 865-659-3562.


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