LINO LAKES — As many as 100 K-9s and their handlers from all over the state and surrounding states — including Wisconsin and North Dakota — will visit Lino Lakes this month to be certified and compete for awards.
The Lino Lakes Public Safety Department (LLPSD) will host the U.S. Police Canine Association (USPCA) Region 12 Patrol Dog 1 (PD1) Certification from June 16-18 at various locations throughout the city, including Centennial High School, Centennial Middle School and Lino Lakes Elementary.
“A big piece for us was trying to bring in a community event for our city. Our police department tries to do as much as we can to make sure that we are involved with the community, and this is another way of doing that,” said soon-to-be-retired K-9 handler and LLPSD Officer Pete Noll.
Patrol Sergeant Melissa Christensen added, “It will bring a lot of exposure to our city. It gives us the opportunity to showcase Lino Lakes, the parks, schools, the public safety department (fire and police) and the community support for the public safety department.”
The USPCA is the nation’s oldest and largest police K-9 organization. Since 1971, it has trained and certified police dogs in general patrol dog use, tracking, protection, narcotic detection, explosive detection, arson investigations, fish and game patrols and search and rescue efforts. Region 12 represents the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Manitoba, Canada. The LLPSD has been a member of the organization since 2004, when its first K-9, Recon, began his duties.
Although the PD1 certification serves as an annual certification for the K-9s, the handlers treat the event as a competition, trying to get near-perfect scores. Winners bring home trophies for the overall highest score or as top achiever in each of the categories.
For Noll, the event is turning out to be a grand finale for K-9 Justice, who is slated to retire as soon as K-9 Argos and his handler, Officer Kristen Mobraten, are ready to assume patrol duties. “I didn’t realize it was going to be (a big finale). I thought I had a little more time working with Justice, but it ultimately is kind of working out that way. Hopefully we can go there and do well for our city,” Noll said. Noll also serves as a USPCA Region 12 board member.
K-9 Argos will not participate in the event because he is still in training.
“Noll has been pouring his all into this,” Christensen said, “to make it not just a great event for the handlers, but also to make it a good event for the public and the community to come see what we do.”
Certification event begins with procession
The Patrol Dog 1 certification event will kick off Sunday, June 16, with a procession of squads carrying the K-9s and their handlers from the police station down Lake Drive to Centennial High School. A free public demonstration will begin around 6 p.m. at the high school to give people an idea of what the next couple of days will involve. All portions of the certification will be open and free for the public to attend.
On Monday, June 17, the certifications event will begin around 7 a.m. and likely continue until 4 p.m. K-9s and their handlers will participate in agility, suspect search, article search and obedience certifications.
All day Tuesday, June 18, will be spent on criminal apprehension. In the “false start” part of the event, a decoy will run and the K-9 must stay next to their handler. During “recall,” which Noll said is the hardest part of the criminal apprehension piece, a decoy will run away and the handler will give the K-9 the command to go after him. Then the caller must call the dog back mid-pursuit.
“Imagine firing a gun or throwing a baseball and then saying, ‘No, I want that back.’ You already made that action happen, so it is very difficult,” Noll explained. In a similar exercise, the dog must go after a suspect after he/she fires a gun.
Even though there is a specific obedience category, all categories will have an obedience piece. “If our dog is not doing what we want them to, we can lose points,” Noll said.
Benefits of hosting
One of the main benefits to hosting the event, Noll said, is exposing the public to what police dogs do.
“They get to see a piece that they normally don’t get to see. Justice and I do demos multiple times a year for people to see at different events. This is larger-scale,” he said, “where people get to see not only how we do stuff, but how the other dogs do stuff too.” Some of the exercises involved in certification are not typically performed at K-9 demos, he noted, because the necessary equipment isn’t generally available.
In addition, the LLPSD K-9 program will receive a percentage of the profits from the event; the USPCA will keep 40% of the profits, while the department gets 60%.
“This will bring in revenue for the city ... people will eat here, shop here, stay here,” Christensen said. “It’s a way to not only showcase what we are capable of, but a way for us to connect with the community.”
The LLPSD is seeking event sponsors and donations to help pay for the costs of hosting the K-9 trial. If interested, contact Noll at Pnoll@linolakes.us; Melissa at Mchristensen@linolakes.us; or Jackie at jackie.McIntosh@ci.lino-lakes.mn.us. Keep an eye on LLPD’s Facebook page for more details about the event.
Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or firstname.lastname@example.org