By: Melina Matthes
OMAHA (kptm) - Typically when you hear of a foot pursuit you think of a police officer searching for a suspect. Often times that officer's best friend is with him. Fox 42's Melina Matthes, takes a closer look at the K-9 unit and found out how a police service dog is a handler's protector.
Duke is a 6-year-old Belgium Malinois that spends his day searching cars, looking for narcotics passing through Nebraska on the interstate. "Do they know they're drugs? No they're a dog. The reason they're doing it is because they're looking to play tug of war with me that's all he cares about, he could care less that marijuana is in there, but he knows that if he detects it correctly him and I are going to play tug of war with a tennis ball that's what Duke is thinking, it's about a game for him," Officer Brian Heath says.
And when he's not sniffing out drugs like meth, cocaine and heroine, he's helping his partner on the streets. "Like say for example somebody starts fighting meI can open my door remotely and the dog will come out and then he'll come help me," Officer Heath says.
When Duke is around the community he's just like a typical dog, but when handler, Officer Heath tells him to go to work he does. "He knows when I get my uniform on, you see him get excited and he starts whining because he wants in the carhe's far happier sitting all day in the back of the cruiser then he would be sitting at home thinking I'm at work without him, so he likes his job," he says.
Duke and Officer Heath don't have the typical pet-owner relationship. He's not treated like other dogs. He's a police K-9 and the two are partners working against crime. "I don't treat him like I treat my other dog, couple times I've had to send him knowing there's a good possibility he could either be shot or stabbed or something like that but that's his job, it's him or we have to send an officer and that's what he's there for," Officer Heath says.
He says it's not always easy to send Duke in, but it's a decision he has to make to protect the lives of those around him. "A call comes where an officer needs assistance, or specifically K-9, that always takes priority for us. Period. End of story and there's never any argument on that because that's what they're there for."
Putting their life on the line for their partner everyday. "As a police officer my goal has been no matter my job is to get home safely to my family."
The Omaha Police K-9 unit is always accepting donations to help in the funding of dogs and training equipment. 100% of the money goes directly to the unit and all donations are tax deductible. To find out how you can help contact Deborah Gombert, Program Coordinator of Friends of the Omaha Police K-9 Unit at 402-498-3414 or visit their website at http://opd.ci.omaha.ne.us/about-us/k-9-unit/donations