Four-legged officers trained to take a bite out of crime
Officers on two and fours legs from across Minnesota and from Fargo competed in the U.S. Police Canine Association regional field trials in Baxter. The event certifies the handlers for the year as well as bringing in a boast to the local economy.
Baxter Police Chief, Jim Exsted, says, “This year we brought in 90, close to 90 dogs. Everybody’s staying in town, shopping at stores, getting gas in town. And we love having it here it’s a great event.”
The K9 officers and handlers competed in a series of exercise, an agility course, a firearms drill and an apprehension drill. While each dog went through over three months of training it’s still difficult to be perfect.
Janelle Graff, St. Cloud canine handler for Ruger, says, “Up and down. One day your dog will do very well in something and you go out and train the next day and he won’t do it. So you get one shot at it at trials so you’re kind of waiting and seeing what dog is going to show up that day because you only get one chance at it.”
Senior judge and former canine handler, Gregory Majors, says, “If the dog is slow coming off the bite he’ll lose points for that. If he doesn’t come back and sit or if drop down in front of the suspect he loses points for that. The least number of commands the better.”
Handlers say working with K9 officers, like Ruger here, builds a special kind of partnership that’s valuable to the force.
Graff says, “It’s just fun, I love dogs. So it’s fun having a four-legged partner. Gets to comes everywhere with you; goes home with you, goes to work with you. You get a very very close bond with him.”
Exsted says, “It’s another tool in our toolbox. You know they’re trained to handle dangerous situations. If there’s a dangerous situation we can send a dog in before an officer, that’s what’s going to happen.”
But there’s more than just competition at this annual event. It’s also a chance for officers around the state to get together.
Majors says, “There’s a lot of comradely I have to say. You know we’re from all over the state so it’s your one chance to get together and see some old friends.”
After the trails the judges compiled the scores and they will give awards to the top dogs.