News

New Chambersburg Police dog joins force

Written by Becky Metrick/Chambersburg Public Opinion | Nov 16, 2015 10:12 AM

 

chambersburg_police_dog.jpg

At 16-months-old, Basco is Chambersburg Police Department's newest K-9.(Photo: Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion)

 

(Chambersburg) -- Basco jumps out of the police cruiser, wagging his tail and immediately rolling onto his back, exposing his belly and wiggling. He wants to play and be petted, but the 16-month-old dog hears his handler's commands and jumps into a proper sit, panting and wagging his tail while awaiting for further instructions.

His handler, Patrolman John Sgrignoli is able to get him to sit, lay down and do some other tricks before giving in and giving the dog a few rubs on his belly.

Basco is one of two police dogs at the Chambersburg Police Department, but still new, only being selected in September. Basco went to a month-long training session between September and October before returning to Chambersburg for the last month.

Police dogs have been a part of the department since 1994 and Chambersburg has had eight dogs retired from the force. Basco is the baby, with Rownan and his handler Cpl. Michael Taylor becoming the veterans.

The dogs have a special impact on the squads they are apart of, the community they serve and the people they find themselves involved with, Taylor said. The dogs are used in narcotics detection, patrol, community outreach and in rare cases, apprehension, Sgrignoli said.

In order to become certified, Sgrignoli and Taylor went through training at Castle K9 in Mechanicsburg, where they also selected the German shepherd and Belgian Malinois mixes.

Training has already begun by the time the dogs are purchased by the department, but the combined handler-and-dog training intensive starts next. Basco, like Rownan, can detect the four main groups of narcotics, including marijuana, opioids, methamphetamine and ecstasy.

He then became certified in building and article searches. And of course, bite training starts early.

"He definitely likes biting. When he's on the bite suit, that's what he likes to do," Sgrignoli said. "It's fun for them, you know what I mean? That's how it is, and he gets rewarded for doing that 'cause he knows he'll get rewarded in the end."

Sgrignoli has yet to send Basco to bite someone, and in Taylor's experience, he has only had to send him out in practice.

While Basco has found he enjoys one of the most intense and risk associated practices, CPD chooses their dogs with social skills in mind. Taylor and Sgrignoli say their dogs not only love other people but other animals too.

"With me he just really wants to play. He just wants to roll around, just wants someone to rub his tummy," Sgrignoli said.

Even with that, handlers have a complete life change as soon as they pick their dogs.

"You can't just let him out into your yard -- like my yard's fenced in but you just kind of have to constantly watch it because you train your dog to jump a fence," Sgrignoli said.

There also is minimal chance of seeing an off-duty Basco running around a hiking trail or playing in the park, Sgrignoli said.

"I'll take him for a walk, stuff like that," Sgrignoli said. "I mean, he's still a working dog. He's not a pet. So he still needs to be able to do the work functions."

Sgrignoli has a second dog, a black lab, that even when outside Basco isn't too interested in. But when they do play, Basco is the alpha, Sgrignoli said.

Taylor, who has been with Rownan for about three years, agrees that the dog, no matter how friendly, becomes a 24-hour commitment.

"It's not something  where you get off work, you go home and you park your car that you can leave that behind and just become a normal everyday person," Taylor said. "You do everything with the dog. Even when you're off duty and you're doing things with your family, you constantly have to be aware of the fact that you have a trained police dog in your presence."

Over the years, Rownan has not only worked with Chambersburg Police, but also worked assisting the Franklin County Sheriff's Department, Pennsylvania State Police, Chambersburg, and other local departments that have requested it.

Taylor said one of the key things he has found in K-9 work is that Rownan acts more as a deterrent than as a use of force.

"I've gone to make an arrest where a suspect is about to flee, and when I warn him that the K-9 will chase him, he stops," Taylor said. Similarly, if he's called to a large public incident like a fight in a parking lot, Rownan's presence will be enough to stop any violent activity.

"A handler knows when he releases that dog to bite someone, it's a serious use of force and you don't want to use that unless it's absolutely necessary," Taylor said. "The fact that the mere presence of the dog stops people most of the time is something I would prefer happen. I would prefer a bad guys sees the dog that I'm with and decides 'I'm not going to run.'"

In his esteemed career, Taylor said Rownan has found small amounts of drugs that were thrown into grass in a large field, as well as drugs hidden in pillows.

Though Basco is still relatively new, Sgrignoli said that once when his unit had a man who was driving under the influence flee from their stop, Basco was later able to find a balled-up coat under a bush that they believed belonged to the runner. Officers had been able to apprehend the runner within five to 10 minutes, but Basco became helpful during the subsequent investigation.

But the day-to-day looks more like Sgrignoli and Taylor patrolling in their vehicles with the dogs as normal, sometimes taking their dogs on foot patrols around town and engaging with the community and their colleagues.

"You catch yourself talking to him, like having one-sided conversation. You know he can't talk back but you always talk to him," Sgrignoli said. "There's like a gate in the front that you can slide open, so he can peek his head through there. He comes up, looks to see what's going on just 'Hey, what's going on. Let's go do something.'"

Taylor said there are members of his unit that complain if they have not seen Rownan in a few days, and that he loves talking to people about Rownan and what he does for the department.

"One of the things we want to do with the K-9 unit is increase their community-oriented policing capabilities," Taylor said. "We want the public to know that we have them out there, and what they're there for."

K-9 Expenses:

Basco cost $13,690 to buy and train, which was covered by contributions from Moose Lodge 842, AMVETS Post 224 and VFW Post 1599, all in Chambersburg. 

Rownan cost a similar amount, and was fully funded by a donation from the BPOE Elks Lodge in Chambersburg.

All of the dogs' food is provided by The Pet Store, Chambersburg.

Medical care is done by the Chambersburg Animal Hospital, which also donates part of the cost.

Kennel needs for the dogs are provided by Goldenwood Kennels, also in Chambersburg.

 


This article comes to us through a partnership between Public Opinion Online and WITF.

 

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