Canine companions help cops better-battle crooks

Eddie is a big, energetic cuddly pooch who seems to love people‚ that is, unless you are a fleeing criminal suspect. Learn more about Portland’s four-footed cops‚ and where to meet them, in person, on June 23‚

Portland Police Bureau K9 Officer Shawn Gore tells neighbors how police dogs help apprehend criminals and aid officer safety.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Folks who came to the Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander’s Forum in June met two special guests, two officers from neighboring Southeast Precinct.

But, one of the two officers, Eddie, walked on all fours, wagged his brown bushy tail, and licked his partner. Oh yes, Eddie is the partner of K9 Officer Shawn Gore.

“Police dogs save thousands of man-hours,” Gore began. “A dog can ‘clear’ [check to see if anyone is hiding in] a building faster than an entire squad of police officers. Our K9s catch 250 to 300 suspects a year. They are called in, primarily, to sniff out the bad guys; they are not ‘aggressive attack’ dogs.”

On duty 24/7
Currently, the Portland Police Bureau has had ten K9 teams on the job; one additional team is in training. This means an officer and dog is available pretty much around the clock, every day of the week.

Detecting the ‘fear scent’
“Our dogs are trained to detect fresh human scent,” Gore said. “Suspects will drop or discard items; but dogs are trained to find human scent, not articles. You might say they’re ‘hot trailing’ dogs. We have a starting point. Someone runs away from a scene. We’ll try to track the trail. We’re able to track suspects about 20%.”

Asked if the dogs sense the suspect’s fear, Gore replied, “We used to call it ‘fear scent’, but that concept isn’t provable scientifically. But, people do put off enhanced scent when they’re amped-up, running and fearful.”

When hot-trailing a suspect, Gore said he relies on other officers to look out for, and protect him and his K9 partner. “I’m focused on reading my dog’s reactions. And yes, the dog knows the difference between an exercise and a real call. He can tell when we’re about to track a suspect.”

Different dogs for different jobs
The officer said dogs are trained for specific jobs. “The bureau has patrol and hot-tracking dogs; our Drugs and Vice Division have two drug detection dogs, and TriMet and Port of Portland have explosive-sensing dogs.”

In addition to their regular duties, Gore and Eddie are members of the SERT squad, called in for high-risk police work. “Our dogs aren’t much affected by tear gas; a little by pepper spray.”

Gores says Eddie is fast becoming a top-notch tracker.

No kennels for police pooches
“Although we’re headquartered at Southeast Precinct, our dogs are not kenneled. We take the dog home every day. It builds a bond, and trust. It doesn’t make sense for a dog to go into dark scary places‚ they may not want to. But, because they trust their human partners, they will do so.”

Asked about how the dogs are kept healthy, Gore told the group, “They’re on a good diet, we exercise them well, and give them supplements. We keep our dogs on the leaner side. We have to jump a lot of fences.”

Gore complemented the Southeast Precinct Citizen’s Advisory group for their long support ‚Äì both moral and financial ‚Äì of the K9 program. “They bought my first dog, Deny, in 1998. They’ve helped buy other dogs‚ and purchased most of the ballistic dog vests to keep our partners safer.”

Lowering his voice, Gore spoke for a moment about that former partner, Deny. “Together, we caught 415 suspects. Deny got cancer, and we had to put him down last year.”

Eddie, Officer Gore said, loves being petted by everyone. Deny, has last K9 partner, was more aloof.

Introduces his new partner
After a brief break, Gore introduced Eddie, a Belgian Malinois.

Gore said the preference for police dog breeds is shifting from the German Shepherd to the Malinois, a Belgian shepherd dog. “This is a ‘high energy’ dog that does best when it has a definite purpose in life. Police dogs need to be social among citizens, then focus as they hunt and track, and then be assertive when they locate the suspect.”

The officer said the department buys dogs from professional breeders. “Dogs cost from $6,000 to $8,000 each; but they come with health and temperament guarantees. The dog must hold up to the rigors of the job. When they retire, many times they’ll live with the handler. But, these are high-drive dogs; they want to work to the very end.”

After the officer and dog have bonded for a few weeks, the K9 team goes through 400 hours of training. Before they are certified, the pair must K9 Performance Standards tests.

How citizens can help when K9 teams are tracking
Asked what people should do when they seen an officer with a police dog in their area, Gore said, “Stay inside; keep your pets indoors. The more distractions we and our dogs have, the less successful we are. If you see the suspect, tell us through a window or door.”

Officer Gore and his late partner Deny were honored by the Portland Police Bureau at their awards ceremony held on June 20 at the David Douglas Horner Performing Arts Center.

Meet the dogs – and your East Precinct officers on June 23
Plan to attend the Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Open House on Saturday. This really is a lot of fun, and informative, too! It runs from Noon until 4:00 p.m.

Meet your neighborhood officers! Tour your precinct!  See PPB Special Units, including their Mounted Unit, Explosives Devices, K-9 & others! Pick up lots of great public safety & crime prevention material. WAIT! There’s more! Get free giveaways, plus food & beverages! It’s all at East Precinct, 737 SE 106th Ave. For more information, call: (503) 823-4800.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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