Right now the Springfield Police Department is down to two dogs in its K-9 unit, but it won't be that way for long. Four new members will be joining next month.
"We consider them part of our brotherhood in blue," said Springfield Police Sgt. John Delaney. "They have a good relationship with the officers. We depend on them, you know."
Friday the four dogs and their handlers spent much of their afternoon in training.
"By the dog and the handler working together, they learn each other's voice inflection," said K-9 trainer and Pittsfield patrolman Dwane Foisy. "The handler would learn maybe a little ear twitch or some body language that the dog might give him to indicate that somebody is out there ahead of him."
Foisy says the primary use of a police dog is as a locating tool, and the secondary use is as a source of force.
Because the department's K-9 unit has been lacking in numbers, they've been turning to state and neighboring police departments for assistance. But once these dogs are trained, they'll become vital members of the force.
"They are actually a force multiplier. You can take one dog and search an area, let's say a junk yard," said Foisy. "You can search that area quicker and more efficiently with a dog than you can with human officers."
Seven new dogs were purchased with grant money. The four trained on Friday will be the first to join the ranks after they complete their 10 to 16 weeks of training sometime next month.
"K-9's are invaluable. They're used for tracking suspects, lost kids, lost elderly people, finding drugs, crowd control," said Delaney.
In the coming months, more dogs will be trained. The goal is to have nine dogs in the K-9 unit.
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