The Georgetown Police Department will be adding another K-9 officer to its rich history when Boomer, who came to the department in November, and his handler Officer Joey Valdez go through training in mid-May.
Boomer and Valdez will join Officer Mike Scott and Rocky who have been on patrol for the last 18 months.
Both German Shepherds serve a dual purpose for the department.
“They are trained in narcotics, tracking, suspect apprehension and area searches for dropped items,” Scott said. “The handler and the dog go to Michigan for four weeks of training. Once we are certified and we come back, we will train 16 hours each month.”
The dogs, which can cost in the neighborhood of $20,000, pay for themselves in the amount of drugs found. Both Rocky and Boomer can detect five drug odors: methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, marijuana and ecstasy.
“They can do things humans simply cannot do,” Valdez said. “They run faster, detect odors better and see and hear better.”
“When deployed in houses, they can find drugs quickly when it takes officers 20 minutes to search,” Scott said. “We have also taken them to the post office or airports when asked because of a suspicious package.”
Sgt. Kevin Wallace said the K-9 unit is an invaluable part of the Georgetown Police Department family.
“Every dollar spent we have gotten use out of them,” he said. “We use them quite a bit and they are a huge benefit to the department.”
Once certified, the monthly training consists of retrieving objects, searching an area for a dropped object (useful when looking for drugs or weapons that a suspect discarded) and also hiding drugs in vehicles and sniffing them out. Scott said because of DEA approval they can check out drugs and in a controlled environment hone their drug-finding skills.
“Boomer works for his food starting in the morning,” Valdez said. “We work on obedience, heeling and training and he has to perform to get fed. We come to roll call and start doing obedience training throughout the day.”
The K-9 officers are also great public relations tools for the department.
“We do demonstrations to show what they can do, but we don’t get them out around children,” Scott said.
“They are another face of the department that people can see,” Wallace added.
Wallace said the community is very supportive of the four-legged officers. Central Kentucky Veterinary Clinic takes care of their health, and Scott said Petsense donates food for the dogs. Valdez and Scott said the food helps a lot as they do work up quite an appetite.
A personal benefit is Rocky and Boomer have become members of their own families.
“It has been awesome to see how Rocky has become part of the family,” Scott said. “I have a 4-year-old and he plays with him all the time.”
“I have a baby, and Boomer is very calm around him,” said Valdez.
Wallace said that just proves the stories of how tight a kinship the K-9 officers and their handlers have are true.
“There is nothing like the bond between the handler and their dog,” he said. “They do become part of the handler’s family.”
Steve MCClain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.