From a City of Mill Creek press release.
MILL CREEK, Wash. – The City of Mill Creek is expecting! With its current K9, Rasko, nearing the end of his service, the Mill Creek Police are anticipating the arrival of a new K9 team within the next 10 to 12 months.
“With our current service dog expected to end his service life in the first quarter of 2019, we are working to implement the succession plan so we can maintain and build on our current level of service,” said Mill Creek Police Chief Greg Elwin. “In everything we do at the City, we are passionate about continuous improvement; this new K9 team is not an exception.”
The new K9 team, affectionately known as K9 version 2.0, will expand on the capabilities of the current K9 team. The current K9 entered service with the intent to be certified for tracking and apprehension. According to Elwin, Officer Ian Durkee and Rasko laid the foundation for future growth and will provide the necessary mentoring for the new duo. The City’s next K9 team will be dual-certified, meaning that it also will have drug detection capabilities.
The Police department is working with Code 4 Canine, a Washington-based law enforcement dog training company, to find and train the perfect dog for the job.
“Our next K9 must be strong and social,” said Elwin. “It must be able to be friendly toward community members, allowing for belly rubs and interaction with kids, but it also must be able to instantly turn on the ‘work’ side and perform law enforcement work at the highest level.”
Sgt. Robert Phillips noted that the officer selected for the K9 team must also exhibit the same characteristics. “Mill Creek Police Officer Nathan Lerma exhibits these characteristics as an officer, and we know that’s the kind of dog handler he’ll be,” Phillips said.
The growing opioid epidemic has left a void in the Mill Creek Police’s ability to intervene through drug detection. “We aren’t immune to what is occurring with drug issues in the county,” said Elwin. “While Mill Creek doesn’t experience some of the challenges of the bigger cities around us, we do have drug-related encounters nearly every day. If we can detect drugs, we can help people obtain recovery and other services while mitigating other crimes that are fueled by drug issues, such as burglaries and car prowls.”
For drug-detection service, the department currently must reach out to other regional K9 teams. Sometimes no K9 team is available. The presence of its own drug detection K9 team means that Mill Creek will have the availability and flexibility to provide proactive patrol on local trails, in City parks and throughout neighborhoods.
The next step in the process is for Code 4 Canine to select a trainee K9 from kennels in Holland. The K9 team will then undergo 10 weeks of basic police canine training, including searching, obedience, agility, and case and statute law at Code 4 Canine. Upon certification, the team will work for approximately six months before returning to Code 4 Canine for a six-week course on drug detection.
In addition to service in Mill Creek, a dual-certified K9 team will benefit other regional law enforcement partners by assisting on calls.
Elwin noted his confidence in continuous improvement, “The new K9 team will far exceed the capabilities of Mill Creek’s current team and will provide us with tools to have a strong community-focused public safety program.”