Karo learns not to dog it on job
But it wasn’t always that way for Karo, a 21-month-old German shepherd and Janesville’s second police dog.
At times, Janesville’s newest rookie cop would nod off in the back of the squad and not be up on his pads when Hageman left the car for a traffic stop.
“That wasn’t good,” Hageman said as he and a Janesville Gazette reporter rode in the squad Saturday night. “He has to be ready to come when I call him.”
During three traffic stops Saturday night, Karo was alert and watching Hageman intently.
The department’s two specially equipped K-9 cars have remote release buttons that Hageman or Shaun Mahaffey, the human half of Janesville’s first K-9 unit, can press to open the back doors and release their dogs.
Mahaffey is teamed with Hardy. They started patrolling city streets in October.
Police dogs serve many purposes, Deputy Police Chief David Moore explained.
They can keep officers safe by quickly finding suspects in hiding or in dark buildings, and they can quickly catch suspects running on foot, Moore noted.
The dogs’ ability to sniff drugs enhances enforcement, and police dogs have great public-relations value, he said.
“Clearly the dogs are big hits with kids,” Moore said.
Though Czech-born Karo was bite-trained for the first year of his life in Germany and has been through the four-week K-9 police academy in Campbellsport with Hageman, he still is learning, and every day is a training day, Hageman said.
“Every day, we need to train on something, and the chief (Neil Mahan) is gracious enough to let us train each day,” Hageman said.
Saturday night was relatively slow on police calls, so Hageman took Karo (pronounced KAY-ro) and the reporter to the municipal garage for drug search training.
Hageman loaded up two pickup trucks there with targets bearing the scents of marijuana, heroin and cocaine.
“Their olfactory (sense) is 10 times greater than ours,” Hageman said. “We rely on sight and sound. They rely more on their nose and their ears.”
Finding drugs is play for Karo.
He nosed around the trucks. Within seconds, he detected his targets.
At the first scent of drugs, he started to breathe more heavily, then eagerly pawed at the targets.
When Karo’s successful, Hageman praises him effusively in a high-pitched voice and plays tug-o-war or fetch with an unscented drug target.
Karo bounced around and wagged his tail like any dog playing with a pleased master.
How well can he smell?
Karo detected “a little bit of (marijuana) residue, what we call shake—seeds and stems” from outside a storage unit that police had a warrant to search, Hageman said.
A man wanted on a warrant recently was detained in a traffic stop. Because of the warrant, police had probable cause to search the vehicle, Hageman said.
From outside the car, Karo sniffed a few marijuana seeds and stems caught between the passenger seat’s back and bottom. Courts have determined that if a dog “hits” on a drug-detection sniff, that is probable cause to search the vehicle or area, Hageman said.
Karo still is learning his job, and Hageman and Karo still are getting to know each other. But Hageman is well versed in K-9 background. He spoke of the personality mix trainers look for in police dogs, what type of praise they respond best to and how dogs encounter a “cone of scent” and react to it.
Drug detection is one of several jobs for Karo and Hardy.
Karo also is certified for tracking and apprehension, and an important part of his training is protecting Hageman.
Hageman explained that tracking and trailing for a K-9 are two different jobs.
Tracking involves detecting and following human scent on the ground, where the human smell has displaced or disturbed the natural scent.
When police dogs trail someone, they are following airborne scent, Hageman explained.
Karo hasn’t yet caught a suspect.
If ordered—in German, the first language he was trained in—to attack, he would bite the suspect.
If ordered to search a building or outside area, Karo would bark and detain the suspect.
“He’ll sit back a little bit and bark,” Hageman said. “If a suspect then makes a sudden move, he’s conditioned to bite.”
As tough as Karo can be, he gets along well with Hageman’s family, which includes his 6- and 2-year-old sons and Athena, an 8-year-old female German shepherd mix.
Athena was protective of her turf at first, but now each dog begs to play with the other if one is free and the other confined, Hageman said.
Karo is “real social but suspicious, which is good,” Hageman said. “He’s always looking around, always looking for what’s going on.”
Trainers look for assertive alpha dogs for police work, so the Hagemans had to let Karo know that his place in the household pack was beneath that of its humans.
“My kids feed him, and my wife takes him for walks to let him know his social standing,” the officer said.
And where Karo and Hardy stand in the department is as “just another tool for officers—not just their handlers—but officers on the street to use,” said Lt. John Olsen, the department’s K-9 supervisor.
“Their biggest asset is that their ability to smell is so much better than ours that we use them to find people and drugs,” he said. “We use them more for drugs.”
And while Hardy has helped take more than 2 pounds of marijuana and more than 6 ounces of cocaine off the street, “you certainly can’t give all the credit to the dogs,” Olsen said. “Some of it we would have gotten on our own.”
Still, Olsen acknowledged that having K-9 units on the force boosts morale and confidence for all officers.
“In traffic stops, where there is an indication of drug use, they know the dogs will help them in those cases,” he said.
Hageman and Karo work second shift and coordinate their hours with the department’s Street Crimes Unit, so the street crimes cops know they will have a dog available for search warrants and traffic stops where they suspect contraband.
A criticism that has been made of K-9 units is that they must call another officer to transport a suspect because there is no place for a suspect in custody to ride in a K-9 car. The dog’s area is what would be the back seat, and officers don’t transport criminal suspects in the front seat.
In such situations, the cost to call another officer “would be inconsequential to the overall police budget,” Moore said, and the department would be happy to incur such a cost because it would mean that a suspect is in custody.
Department brass think the dogs’ overall value far outweighs the cost of having to call other officers to transport suspects, the deputy chief said.
And a police dog’s presence can dissuade stubborn or resisting suspects quickly, Olsen said, “just like when they see a Taser come out.”
“It’s reassuring to know you have the extra tool to help you,” Hageman said. “It’s a great feeling to know that if I search a car, I’ve got his extra nose to help me.”
And in a city where most officers patrol solo and reinforcements can take a minute or two to arrive, Hageman said it’s comforting to know that backup is always at his side.
New programs have costs and, if successful, positive results. Here are some of the statistics and facts on the Janesville Police Department’s K-9 program:
-- Oct. 7: Officer Shaun Mahaffey and police dog Hardy start patrol.
-- Nine: Number of “tracks” Hardy followed; two were successful.
-- 21: Number of area searches.
-- 31: Building searches.
-- 84: Vehicle contacts for K-9 units.
-- 34: Number of ounces of marijuana seized through K-9 patrols.
-- 172: Number of grams of cocaine—powder and crack—seized. Also $8,158 in cash and three vehicles.
-- $10,000: Cost of one dog and to train one dog and an officer. The department has two dogs: Hardy and Karo. Karo is teamed with officer Glen Hageman.
-- $5,000: Cost of equipping a squad car with K-9 containment unit, temperature monitor and remote-control release. The department has two K-9 cars.
-- $2,000: Cost of other equipment such as harnesses, collars and the bite suits and sleeves used to train police dogs to apprehend suspects.
-- $50: Cost of food per dog per month.
-- 30: Minutes of overtime per day seven days a week allotted to each officer to care for the dogs at the officers’ homes. The police union—the Janesville Professional Police Association—agreed to the level of compensation.
Discounted veterinary services, free baths and fencing for kennels at the officers’ homes have been donated.