Calhoun County has a new police dog and she will be looking for bombs.
The Calhoun County Sheriff Department on Thursday introduced Rocket, a 2-year-old Dutch Shepherd.
Rocket was taught by Von Der King Kennels and Training in Howell to search for bombs, ammunition and guns.
“Anything that goes boom,” said owner Nicholas King. The dog was bred in the United States to parents from Holland and after continuous training is ready to begin work.
Why Rocket is needed in the county:
Sheriff Matt Saxton said the nearly $7,000 cost of the dog was provided by an anonymous donor. He said the dog will be used for a number of tasks.
“We have seen over time a number of school bomb threats and to be able to have a dog close and respond quickly will help us so districts won’t have to close schools for the day,” Saxton said. “We have had to search on our own but now will be able to search with the dog.”
Saxton said he believes the bulk of the use will be searching for guns or ammunition during traffic stops or building searches.
“We had discussed it at first and didn’t think we had a need but firearms and ammunition are a concern as part of school safety and this was a good opportunity. Free is not all free but there is a large chunk that was paid towards it.”
Deputy Guy Picketts, one of two sheriff department handlers along with Deputy Matt Burpee, said he believes the dog will be used nearly every day.
“It is a huge resource for the whole county,” Picketts said. “Michigan State Police have a bomb dog but sometimes they are tied up or not available.
“But now we will have the dog available if they have a bomb threat or if a kid says he is coming to school with a gun. We can have the dog available right now and right away.”
Picketts said the dog will be used for routine and periodic searches of schools in the 14-districts patrolled by the department and others if requested.
“We can run lockers and cars and we will routinely be in the schools,” Picketts said.
While some dogs can be trained to search for a number of different items, like drugs, or track and apprehend people, Rocket is a single-purpose dog, only trained to find explosive materials, Saxton explained.
For safety, officers want to know that the dog is only pointing at a possible explosive item, rather than drugs or something else
Picketts said he expects the dog will be used to work with the Battle Creek Police Department Bomb Squad.
“If the dog alerts on something we can call in the bomb squad. We don’t know 100% with the dog but then the bomb squad can come in with robots and their equipment and do what they do.”
He said the dog can also check for booby traps when officers find marijuana grow operations, for example, or when SWAT teams are about to enter a building.
Now that they have the dog, the sheriff department is preparing to select a new handler for Rocket, Picketts said.
“It’s a lot of extra work on your own time. It is non-stop.”
Once a handler is selected, the training between the two won’t take long, Picketts said.
“She could start tomorrow,” he said. “The dog knows its job and so you are just training the handler. The dog is ready to rip.”
Rocket will join a number of police dogs in the county, including four in Battle Creek, two at the sheriff department, and a bloodhound with the Albion Department of Public Safety.
Emmett Township has also just added Copper, a multi-purpose dog.
A final fundraiser for that dog will be from 2-6 p.m. Sunday at JB’s Whiskey Creek at 3509 Dickman Road in Springfield.
More working dogs:
Picketts said the event is open to the public and those attending can bring their own dogs and that some police dog demonstrations are planned.
Contact Trace Christenson at 269-966-0685 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @TSChristenson
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