The Springfield Police K-9 Program

In 1976 Federal Grant money was available to Law Enforcement agencies in the State of Oregon for burglary prevention or detection. The Coos Bay police department used this grant money to start a K-9 program, and while attending a seminar in Coos Bay, Sergeant Alan Carlson observed the dogs work. Sgt. Carlson became interested in the K-9 program and believed that dogs were useful tools for law enforcement. He initiated a study and proposal for the Springfield Police Department on K-9’s which was supported by the police administration, but was not submitted to the City Council for review for several years.

In 1981, after continuous years of submitting the proposal, a new City Manager allowed the City Council to review the report. The proposal suggested the first dog handlers would be Sergeants to insure control and longevity of the program. The police department would assign a supervisor/dog trainer to administer and expand the program as needed. To minimize costs, time consumption, and choosing qualified dogs, a training kennel specializing in police dogs and guaranteeing performance and health would be selected. The vendor would also be required to provide a certified police K-9 handler training course for each handler. The proposal outlined an analysis of calls for a six months period that estimated a K-9 program could save 487 officer-hours on various calls for service that would save $5,167.99. (1981 dollars) A specific case illustrating the need for a K-9 program involved a burglary alarm at the Bi Mart Store on Mohawk Blvd. in which the suspect was not located. A week later, another alarm took five officers more than one and half-hours to find the suspect. When the suspect was questioned about the first burglary he said he was hiding in a cardboard box and “could have touched the police officer with his finger”. If a trained K-9 had searched the store, the suspect would have been located within minutes with a significant increase of safety for the officers. Without reservation the City Council unanimously approved the K-9 Program.

Because of his efforts and interest, Sergeant Carlson was sent to a two-month school at Mandelyn Kennels in Bakersfield, California to learn dog training.  Later, Sergeant P.T. Roberts and he attended a three-week police K-9 handler school. The first two dogs, Arras & Jasko, were Schutzhund titled German Shepherds imported from Germany. Schutzhund is a dog sport in Germany, which requires passing scores in tracking, obedience, and protection. These training disciplines are essential working abilities for a police service dog. The program proved successful and in 1984 expanded to a four-dog program to insure the adequate coverage of the Night and Morning shifts and reduce overtime because of requests for K-9 assistance.

In 1986 the police department received two silent alarms at the K-Mart store on 21st St. After officers searched the store twice, a third alarm was received. A K-9 was called from home to search and within minutes, a burglar was found hiding in the storage area under several empty boxes.

Since the inception of the proposal the program has become self-sufficient regarding acquisition and training of new dog and handler teams. In the beginning, the first two dogs were accepted without question and assigned to the handlers by the vendor.  The training of the team was an additional expense and conducted in California. Later, replacement dogs were sent by air freight and examined to see if they possessed the working instincts necessary for training police service dogs. Many dogs were sent back, which resulted in added costs, and this became an unacceptable method for choosing new dogs. Now, the Springfield K-9 Trainer tests each dog at the vendor’s kennel prior to acceptance and training to establish if the dog possesses the necessary instincts and drives to complete a police service dog training course and meet the high standards of the Springfield Police Department. Training is certified by the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training and is conducted by a qualified instructor in the K-9 Unit.  This saves time and money and causes the transition from training to working easier and quicker for the dog.

Celebrating our 30th anniversary, the Springfield Police Department K-9 Unit has established itself as one of the premier units in the State of Oregon. Sergeant Charboneau, Officer Daren Kendrick and Officer Tony DelCastillo are trainers and leaders in the Oregon Police Canine Association.  In addition to training Springfield Police dogs the K9 Unit assists in the training of dog teams from around the state.  Most recently the Roseburg Police department, with the assistance of Springfield K9, purchased and trained two dog teams.  With a continuing emphasis on obtaining quality handlers and dogs, combined with up-to-date training, the proficiency of Police Service Dog deployment in Springfield remains successful and professional as we enter our forth decade of service.

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