Officer Leroy revives East Grand Forks Police Department’s K9 unit
The East Grand Forks Police Department's newest recruit has strange priorities for a law enforcement officer. "His goal in life is to get rewarded with his ball," Tyler Hajicek, East Grand Forks' K9 unit handler, said as he tossed a tennis ball t...
The East Grand Forks Police Department's newest recruit has strange priorities for a law enforcement officer.
"His goal in life is to get rewarded with his ball," Tyler Hajicek, East Grand Forks' K9 unit handler, said as he tossed a tennis ball to the department's new German shepherd, Leroy.
Tuesday was Leroy's first official day of duty, a landmark for the department after a fundraising effort that began in November of last year. Leroy's start-up costs totaled about $30,000, said Michael Hedlund, East Grand Forks police chief, and all of that money came from community donations.
The East Grand Forks Police Department did previously have a K9 unit, but it was retired more than 15 years ago. Police dogs can be used for tracking suspects who have fled a crime scene, missing persons or evidence that might have been discarded, Hajicek said, but Leroy primarily will be used for narcotics detection.
"He is trained to detect cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin, which is the main four that we run into in our area," Hajicek said. "(Methamphetamine) has been the main drug that we've been running into. Marijuana has always been there. But as we know, recently heroin has also made a comeback with fentanyl."
Leroy's sense of smell is 400 times more sensitive than a human's, and Hajicek said he will be an invaluable asset in executing search warrants and searching vehicles for drugs.
Hajicek was hired as an officer three years ago straight out of college. Hedlund said that since day one, Hajicek has been passionate about working narcotics cases, and this was part of the reason he felt comfortable appointing him K9 handler. Hajicek went through a month and a half of training with Leroy.
Besides the pragmatic applications of Leroy, Hajicek is excited about being part of public relations for law enforcement.
"We have this negative stigma toward law enforcement that we're these bad people and we're only out there to do harm, and he's one more tool that we can go out there and say, 'No, we're here to help you guys,' and you can bring him in and people can relate and say, 'Hey, he's a dog. He's not there to harm you, he's there to help you,' '' Hajicek said.
Leroy is the only K9 unit in Polk County, and Hedlund said East Grand Forks intends to lend his services out as often as possible.
"We feel it's kind of a responsibility as an agency that now has a K9 program because for so many years we've had to request K9 teams from other agencies to come help us," Hedlund said.
There has been a lot of discussion about the Polk County Sheriff's Department acquiring K9 units during this election cycle, Hajicek said. Grand Forks currently has two K9 units, and plans to acquire a third are "in the works" Lt. Derik Zimmel said.
Leroy still has "a lot of puppy in him" at nearly a year and half old, Hajicek said. Still, Hajicek said, life with Leroy is a lot like life with any other dog.
"He's like having a pet that comes to work with me," Hajicek said. "He sits in the back seat and looks up at me and wants to just say, 'Dad, I want to go to work.' So, yeah, it's like having the best partner in the world."