Behind the scenes with TPD K-9 Unit - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Behind the scenes with TPD K-9 Unit

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Toledo has seven new crime fighters helping keep the streets of our city safer. They work for treats, toys and love. The K-9 unit has only been on the streets for a matter of months and their work is already having an impact. 13abc's Lissa Guyton and videographer Todd Gaertner spent several days riding with the unit. They went along on a number of different shifts with three of the officers and their dogs and nothing was off limits.

There's not much down time for the K-9 unit. Don Comes has been on the force for about 12 years and he's now part of the specialized unit, "People are not aware of the magnitude or scope of the problems we deal with on a daily basis." Finding drugs, bombs and suspects is all in a days work. Yuma is one of the seven German Shepard Dogs on the force. Our camera was rolling as she helped track three people hiding from officers in an attic.

All of the dogs are dual purpose, meaning they can do things like track suspects or people who are lost. They can search buildings and outside areas for weapons. Five of the dogs are trained to sniff out drugs. Yuma is Officer Mickey Mitchell's partner,"If she smells the odor high she'll sit. If it is somewhere low like under a seat, the trunk or the hood they'll lay down."

The other two dogs are trained to find explosives. Lieutenant. Brian Twining says its amazing to watch them work,"They have the ability to smell things we can't even comprehend." Some of what the dogs do is hard to measure. Officer Joe Taylor says they often help diffuse potentially dangerous situations, "I told a suspect that if he ran the dog would bite him. He didn't think about taking off and I am pretty sure that if we didn't have the dog he would have taken off running. It is hard to describe, but there's an unbelievable bond you get with your dog" 

Lt. Twining says that bond takes the dogs and their handlers into all kinds of tight spaces, wide open fields and everywhere in between, "You're with your dog 8 hours a day at work, you are with your dog at home, you are always training with your dog. They are with you all the time so the bond is somewhat unexplainable unless you've been through it. It's a deep bond, you see it in the dogs and vice versa."

It's obviously dangerous work. Officer Taylor's dog Joker is one of the two bomb dogs, "I love him and I don't want anything to happen to him. I have already had to put him in harms way. I am right there with him though. He is my partner."

They unit trains every day to be prepared for all kinds of situations. Officer Comes says part of that training is learning how to read the dogs,"Dogs are just like people and you have to learn to pick up on unspoken language, body cues, positioning and things like that."

The dogs' motivation to work isn't drugs, bombs or finding people. Officer Comes says it's much simpler than that, "When we give them a command asking them to work what they are really working for is a toy and play time. It is fun for them. So if they find drugs or a lost person, there will be a reward and that reward is play time."

The officers describe their dogs as intelligent, loyal, playful and approachable. In fact, Officer Mitchell's dog likes to give kisses,"She likes to lick my ear and paw my shoulder. What she's saying is that it's time to play ball." Lt. Twining says they chose that kind of a dog for the unit, "We wanted dogs we could have in the community, take into schools, walk down the street and have people come up and pet them. However, we also needed dogs that could function on the street and help law enforcement and they have been phenomenal in that regard."

Lt. Twining says each dog costs about $13,000 with all the training, "It is an expensive venture but when you look at the overall cost compared to the work on the street they've done an amazing job. The dogs have had about 500 deployments and 171 arrests. It is a pleasure working with them and seeing what they can do." 

All of the dogs came from Europe. Yuma is from Germany and most of her commands are given in German. Officer Comes says that is not to throw people off, "A lot of people have the misconception that we teach them German or Czech commands to be secretive but that is not the case. Those were the commands they were given as puppies so it makes it easier for us. It is easier for us to learn 6-7 words than to switch it back around for them."  Because of where they came from, Officer Comes says the dogs also have something you might not expect, "He has a passport? He does. He doesn't have a picture like we do but he does have a passport."

It's hard for most of us to imagine what these officers see on the job. Officer Taylor says what he sees at work makes him thankful for what he has, "Some of the things we see and deal with are awful, terrible atrocities but it certainly gives you an appreciation for your life and how good you have it and how thankful you should be." Amidst all the tragedy and crime, Officer Mitchell says there is a reward, "The best part is when somebody says thank you. You don't get it a lot but is means a lot."

The dogs have been so successful the Toledo Police Department is planning to bring two more into the unit by the end of the year. Some of you have asked about bullet proof vests for the dogs and all of them are getting one.

Here's a little more about the K9 Officers and their partners:

Officer Don Comes and K9 Luke
Luke is a 3-year-old German Shepherd. He's actually from the Czech Republic and had extensive training in Germany before moving to the U.S. He's keen on problem solving and is very responsive to training and new ideas. He loves the snow as well as playing catch.

Lieutenant Brian Twining and K9 Charly
Charly is also originally from the Czech Republic. He's trained in narcotics and odor detection. He likes people and spending time at home with his best buddy, Jack, a Labrador retriever.

Officer Brett Kohlman and K9 JJ
JJ is 17-months-old and understands Czech, German and English. He loves playing at home with kids and playing fetch with his favorite green ball.

Officer Michael Mitchell and K9 Yuma
Yuma is a German Shepherd, who hails from Germany. She is trained in narcotics and odor detection. She is obedient and social and loves playing with Officer Mitchell's four small children.

Officer Joseph Taylor and K9 Joker
Joker was born in the Czech Republic and is trained in explosive detection and police patrol techniques. He's friendly and energetic and loves to play fetch and tug.

Officer Raymond Espinosa and K9 Nero
Nero is a German Shepherd who is almost 2 and trained in narcotics and odor detection. He loves people and his buddy Elvis, a Goldendoodle.

Officer Scott Lewandowski and K9 Damon
Damon is three years old and trained in explosive odor detection. He has a hard drive and is always ready to work. At home, he likes spending time with his roommate, a five-year-old German Shepherd.


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