New K-9 officer reporting for duty

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Ted Sullivan
Saturday, June 26, 2010
— Rock County sheriff’s deputy Shawn Nolan can already credit some arrests to his new K-9 officer, Dex.

Nolan suspected a woman had illegal drugs in her vehicle on a recent traffic stop, but he didn’t have consent to search.

Dex sniffed the outside of the vehicle and alerted on the driver’s door. The alert was enough for probable cause to search, leading to a drug bust.

Drug enforcement is one of several ways the German shepherd will help the sheriff’s office after going on duty earlier this month. Dex also can track missing persons or suspects and get people to submit if they’re a threat.

Nolan, the dog’s handler, had to undergo extensive training with Dex after the dog arrived from Germany. Dex rides in the back of Nolan’s squad car, which is equipped with a dog-friendly riding area instead of a back seat. Dex also has a built-in water dish.

The dog lives with Nolan, his wife and two children. He commands the dog in German. Dex understands normal commands such as sit, stay, come and fetch. He also alerts to most drugs, attacks on command and loads and unloads in the squad car.

Dex requires daily obedience training. Nolan’s wife often feeds the dog. His daughter hugs him. The Nolan family loves him.

“He’s been very good at home,” Nolan said. “He’s good with the kids.”

Dex isn’t the first dog used at the sheriff’s office.

The K-9 program was disbanded about 10 years ago after disagreements about how handlers should be paid, Sheriff Bob Spoden said. The handler’s compensation was tricky because the deputy had the dog 24 hours a day.

When the decision as made to bring back K-9s, the sheriff’s office and union agreed on a compensation package, Spoden said. The contract addresses the handler’s responsibilities and pay outside of normal duty.

To create the K-9 program, Capt. Jude Maurer said the sheriff’s office spent:

-- $10,000 to buy the dog using federal grant money.

-- $22,600 to buy a dedicated squad car using fees paid by the state for sheriff’s office patrol of UW-Rock County.

-- $11,000 to outfit the squad car using federal grant money.

-- $484 for training equipment using federal grant money.

-- $541 for dog supplies using donations.

-- $1,610 for Nolan’s meals and lodging during four weeks of training in Campbellsport using a state training grant.

The addition of Dex boosts to five the number of police dogs on duty at law enforcement agencies in Rock County. Janesville has two German shepherds, and Beloit has two Belgian Malinois. Edgerton had a German shepherd for a few days until it bit a police department employee May 10 and was deactivated.

The sheriff’s office selected Nolan to be Dex’s handler after the sheriff’s office found a need for a K-9 and had difficulties borrowing dogs from other agencies, Maurer said.

“It’s an effective tool that helps us,” he said.

In a demonstration at the sheriff’s office, Dex quickly alerted to some drugs hidden behind a vent in a conference room. The dog went right to the drugs and scratched the vent.

Dex also was used in a recent incident involving a possibly armed suspect. Nolan stopped the suspect with Dex in his vehicle.

The suspect got out of his vehicle and began walking toward Nolan. The suspect wouldn’t stop approaching or listen.

Nolan warned the man he might release his dog. Dex was barking furiously in the patrol car.

The threat of Dex was enough to get the suspect’s cooperation.

Nolan hopes to keep Dex on active duty for at least five years. He has the option of buying Dex from the sheriff’s office for $1 after the dog retires.

Last updated: 1:59 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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