Police and rescue dogs, handlers convene in Valparaiso
BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent September 19, 2013 1:28PM
Valparaiso Police Officer Todd Kobitz and his K-9 partner Geist participate in a demonstration Wednesday at the Benjamin Franklin Middle School football field. | Post-Tribune
Updated: October 22, 2013 6:05AM
VALPARAISO — Jay Craig, deputy chief of the Porter Fire Department, has had his search-and-rescue dog Harley for about a year and a half.
This week, Craig and Harley, a German shepherd, are training with other law enforcement officers and their K-9 partners in Valparaiso at a fall workshop sponsored by the North American Police Work Dog Association.
Craig said Harley is different from typical police dogs because of the nature of his work. Still, Harley receives much of the same training, and the police dog association offers the certification Craig needs.
The workshop and its location were invaluable for Craig and Harley.
“I wouldn’t have been able to leave town with my full-time job requirements,” said Craig, who works at ArcelorMittal. “It’s been a great experience working with people from across the state.”
About 40 K-9 teams from Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky are taking part in the training, which started Monday and runs through Friday.
This is the first time the Valparaiso Police Department has hosted the workshop, which included a public demonstration Wednesday at Benjamin Franklin Middle School’s football field.
In addition to certification, Valparaiso Police Officer Todd Kobitz, who took part in the demonstration with his dog Geist, said officers and their dogs are going through an array of situations that may be new to them both.
“We’ll throw people in a house with one decoy or two decoys and teach people and dogs different things that could happen,” he said, adding a scenario might include an officer in a bite suit hiding under a pile of clothes.
People of all ages filled the bleachers and stood along the fence line at the football field to watch the dogs in action. That action included following basic commands; leaping out of police cars and going after “bad guys” in bite suits; and finding contraband, whether hidden in a box or planted on a kid.
Valparaiso Police Chief Michael Brickner said since 2010, K-9s in his department have been involved in 1,372 situations in some way. That included tracking people or searching buildings 128 times and assisting with 613 arrests, including 343 narcotics arrests.
He commended the officers who gathered for the workshop as some of the best in their departments:
“These are the men and women on the front lines, combating the scourge of illegal drugs and other criminal behavior to keep our communities safe.”