Oregon City Council on Monday will consider the appointment of a handler for the police division’s new K-9 program.
“If we have a police K-9 unit, we want to have an excellent program,” said Mayor Mike Seferian at a committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 4. “We’ll settle for nothing less than that. One of the most key features of the K-9 unit is the dog handler for the program to be successful. The handler and family of the handler have to be the right fit for the dog and the whole program. So it’s not like we get a dog, pick a person, put them in a car and everything works. It’s done to find the best possible person, to find the best dog and best program set up for what our needs are. So to do that properly, it takes a little time.”
Police Chief Mike Navarre said at the meeting that Sgt. Jeffrey Martin has been selected to be the canine handler. Martin, 38, was appointed to the police division on Jan. 3, 2000 and has been a sergeant for 1 ½ years.
Martin was selected out of five applicants, said Navarre.
“He has a lot of knowledge, experience, and a great passion for this line of work. And it takes a special person to do that. Not everyone can do that,” said Navarre. “We were fortunate to have five very good applicants to choose from. We felt like we selected the best candidate.”
Martin, subject to council’s approval, will begin six weeks of training at the Shallow Creek Kennel’s training facility in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.
“We pretty much narrowed it down to four schools – two in Ohio, one in Indiana, and one in Pennsylvania,” said Navarre. Shallow Creek Kennel is a three hour drive from Oregon.
“That was important. There are schools all over the country. But we wanted something in reasonable proximity,” said Navarre. “And we wanted a school that specialized in this type of training. These are very, very fine top of the line schools to choose from.”
The type of canine will be selected at the time the training begins.
“They have a number of canines at the facility,” said Navarre. “They will evaluate our needs, evaluate the canine handler, and they will select a dog that will both meet our needs and will be compatible with the handler.”
Typically, most canine training facilities import dogs from overseas, Martin said to council.
“Usually from Germany, Belgium, Czechoslovakia. They pre-train the dogs,” he said.
Eventually, one of the dogs at the facility will be selected as being the most compatible with the needs of the division, said Martin.
“Then I will start working with that dog on a more regular basis,” said Martin.
The training facilities usually have up to 100 dogs on site, he said.
“There’s enough access to different types of dogs to fit with what we need,” he said.
The dogs, following training, usually are about two years old, he said.
Councilman Jim Seaman asked whether the training facilities prefer male or female dogs for K-9 programs.
“It varies,” said Martin. “Typically, you’re going to see more males than females just because of the breeding aspect. Usually, you’re looking at males. Is a female out of the question? No.”
Martin said the dog will stay with him 24 hours a day.
Council will consider the contract with Shallow Creek Kennels at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Feb. 11.
“It’s fortunate we were able to get an opening for the April 8 session,” said Navarre. “They’re holding a slot for us subject to your approval.”
Martin is expected to graduate with the dog from Shallow Creek Kennels on May 17.
After Martin completes training, the police division will take ownership of the dual purpose police canine, which will be used to detect drugs and human scent.
“It will look at detecting the major narcotics,” said Martin, as well as some prescription drugs. “It’s a dual purpose canine. It will also have tracking capabilities, whether for a suspect or missing persons.”
Council last year approved a $15,000 contribution from the Toledo Refining Company, LLC, to fund the program.