K-9 officer joins Polson Police Department
POLSON – The newest member of the Polson Police Department has a nose for finding illegal drugs with success already occurring during his first two weeks on the job.
The German shorthair pointer joined the Department as a police dog in early November after being trained in narcotics odor detection and man tracking. His handler, officer Cody Doyle, went to the Shallow Creek Kennels in Pennsylvania to get him.
Doyle attended a month-long training program at the kennel to learn to work with the dog and utilize his skills. During the training, Doyle was amazed by Jäger’s skill level. He said he went into a warehouse where drugs were purposefully hidden to give the team a challenging find. Jäger was on his leash. Doyle held on tight after the dog was given the command to search.
“I don’t like to know where the drugs are in training exercises to make it more real, so I didn’t know where he was going,” Doyle said.
In a short amount of time, Jäger easily found the sent of narcotics, but in this scenario, he couldn’t get to the find. He worked towards a corner of the building and got as close as he could. Jäger then sat down to signal that he had found something, but this time, he looked up instead of closely pointing it out.
“The find was super high,” Doyle said. “It was about ten feet up in the corner. I was really impressed that he could find that.”
Before Doyle went to Pennsylvania, the Department decided to put out a “Name that Dog” contest on social media for the one-year-old pup. Suggestions came in before the Sept. 12 deadline. The brown colored dog with white speckles, floppy ears and a lean figure inspired names like Duke, Hershey and Jett. Several people also said Cleveland would be a good tribute to Polson officer William Cleveland who passed away after a battle with cancer in 2015.
The most popular name turned out to be Jäger, a Dutch word that means hunter (pronounced Yay-ger). “In his brain, he is hunting when searching for narcotics,” Doyle said. “He will sit and stare when he finds it. It doesn’t scratch or bite. He can detect drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin.”
Jäger wasn’t trained to look for marijuana because many people have prescription drug cards to use it legally. By only looking for narcotics, police officers will know that what Jäger finds is illegal. “There will be no question,” Doyle said.
Jäger is also trained to track people, but this skill will only be used to search for lost children or maybe someone with an illness because the dog isn’t trained to bite when he finds someone. Doyle said once the dog finds someone, he would just sit next to them, which probably wouldn’t be safe for the dog if he were tracking a criminal.
The Department was especially concerned with keeping the community involved in the project because they helped fund it. Sergeant George Simpson said people donated money soon after the Department started sharing information about search warrants being served involving drug busts.
“People would call and say, ‘what you’re doing is great. How can we help?’ And local businesses did fundraisers on their own,” he said.
The donations added up to $11,000, which was more than half of the $16,000 needed to purchase the trained pup from the kennel and for the month-long training program for the dog and the officer to learn to work together. The Department provided the remainder of the cost.
The Department decided a new police dog would be the best way to use donations to reduce illegal drugs in town. Earlier this year Simpson said that the Lake County Jail doesn’t have enough space to hold non-violent criminals. The Department decided to drive drug dealers out of town by notching up their efforts to find dealers with the aid of a police dog, making arrests and confiscating the products. They also utilize an investigation team and search warrants.
Jäger is replacing Brody. The yellow lab worked for the Department for five year before retiring due to early signs of arthritis. Brody is currently living Captain Alan Booth.
Jäger was chosen for his good temperament. He isn’t a bitter and he doesn’t mind being pet by random people. Doyle said he feels comfortable taking the dog into schools to interact with the children. When not on duty, Doyle takes Jäger home with him where he is part of his family – including three kids.
He is also a dog with an extraordinary amount of energy. His handler has developed calluses on his hands where he holds the leash and uses a lot of muscle to keep the dog from working too hard. “He loves to work,” he said.
Doyle also doesn’t think his uniform will ever stay clean with his new partner. Jäger loves to play and often stamps a few muddy paw prints on Doyle’s shirt. Playing is what drives him to work. He was trained to find narcotics and his favorite toy at the same time. The toy was eventually removed and used as a reward. Every time he finds drugs, Doyle throws the toy. Jäger goes after it with intense speed and strength. He wrestles around with the toy and gets Doyle to throw it again a few times.
Doyle has a college degree in biology and understands animal behavior, and when he found out the Department was looking for a new canine handler, he immediately requested the position. He said the first thing he had to do was to learn to “trust” the dog’s skills, but once he found out how good Jäger was at finding his mark, the trust quickly grew. “Since I’ve had him, he has never had any false indications,” Doyle said.
Police officers with the Polson Police Department are now carrying Narcan, which will revive a drug overdose victim, long enough to get them to the hospital. Narcan can also be used on dogs. Simpson said if Jäger happens to breathe in a powdered narcotic, Narcan will be administered if needed. Simpson said the dog is considered part of the police department’s team and his safety is important. “He is a cop,” Simpson said of Jäger.
The patrol car Jäger rides in has a special back seat compartment designed for him. If the space gets warm, an air-conditioning unit will kick on. If the space really gets hot, an automatic system will unroll the windows and the sirens will turn on.
The Department’s continuous goal is to make Polson a safe place and to work towards reducing illegal drugs. The canine team will also be working with towns across Lake County as needed. “We want to help the best way we can,” Simpson said.