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Plymouth K-9 unit shows off skills

Bruder bites Det. McCarthy as Sgt. Newcomb prepares to have him release his bite in the duo’s first live demonstration after graduating from Patrol School in June 21. (Ashley Finethy) (click for larger version)
July 18, 2012
PLYMOUTH—After completing the K-9 Academy on June 21, Bruder, the 17 month old Plymouth Police Department K-9, and his partner, Sgt. Derek Newcomb, have been busy.

"Bruder and I have handled five calls for service for a K-9 in the region in the past three weeks," said Newcomb. "We've been working a lot."

After completing the 16 week, eight hour a day patrol school, Bruder is now a working dog, well trained in obedience, article searches to find evidence, and criminal apprehension.

"At graduation, the instructor came up to me specifically and said he was amazing," said Plymouth Chief of Police Steve Lafebvre. "He was the best in the class in obedience."

Passing the Patrol Academy with flying colors, Chief Lafabvre and Newcomb are proud of Bruder and excited about his future contributions to the police department.

"He all around stood out," said Newcomb. "He was by far the best in the class."

Now that the duo has had a few weeks to recover from graduation, Newcomb and Bruder took their skills to the street in their first team demonstration in the Plymouth Courthouse parking lot on July 14, despite the heat.

"They've done great, given the heat," said Lafabvre. "You have to make sure the dog stays cool, but we would like to see them do this more because it's an incredible program."

Newcomb and Bruder demonstrated their skills to a crowd of Plymouth area residents, first practicing scenarios in obedience.

"Bruder is very smart," said Newcomb. "He speaks three different languages — English, German and some Dutch."

Bruder demonstrated his ability to heal, stay and follow multilingual commands, then taking his skills set a step further to demonstrate his ability to recover evidence.

A young audience member was asked to throw a pocket knife into the grass for Bruder to find and recover.

"Bruder was trained to pick up human scent, and he will not give up until he finds it," said Newcomb. "He was trained to lay down near it when he finds evidence. We don't want him picking it up or touching it because we need to be able to take pictures of the evidence."

Going another step further, Newcomb and Bruder impressed the audience with the help of Det. McCarthy in a bite suit to demonstrate criminal apprehension.

"At the end of a track, he doesn't automatically bite someone," said Newcomb. "If we go looking for a missing child, I don't worry that he will bite a child."

Many community members asked questions about Bruder's training and his life outside of work to get to know Bruder.

"He lives with me and my family," said Newcomb. "He is around my young children and my other dogs. He sleeps in a crate next to my bed at night. He has a good life, just being a dog outside of work, but we will do a little bit of work or go over situations sometimes on the weekend."

Bruder and Newcomb wouldn't have been able to attend Patrol Academy if it wasn't for the generosity and support of the community.

"The K-9 unit is completely funded through donations, and is at no expense to the taxpayers," said Lafebvre.

Through the generosity of Noseworthy Real Estate in Ashland and community member Susan Parker, the program has been able to obtain the necessary equipment for training. Parker has generously donated the bite suit the duo uses, and a bullet proof vest for Bruder, as well.

"She donates to us on a regular basis," said Lafebvre. "She is an amazing woman, and we can't thank her enough for everything she does."

With a bite suit and a bullet proof vest, the department hopes add a cooling vest to Bruder's equipment to keep him cool on the job.

"I would like to get him a cooling vest," said Newcomb. "We worry about him being so hot. During the demonstration, between scenarios, I put him in the cruiser so he could be in the air conditioning. He gets so hot."

To keep Bruder cool, the cruiser, marked to warn community members there is a dog in the car, also has some updates to keep Bruder safe. First is an impressive heat control system where if the car gets over 90 degrees, the windows will drop, the lights will go on and a horn will alert Newcomb that some attention needs to be paid to Bruder's climate. If Newcomb is inside or away from the car when the temperature becomes too warm, he wears a pager on his belt to alert him.

Another feature in the cruiser that community members were shown is the door popper located on Newcomb's belt, as well, to pop open the door releasing Bruder if Newcomb becomes engaged with a suspect or is unable to physically open the door.

The duo is now looking forward to going back to school in September to certify Bruder in finding a variety of different drugs, including marijuana, meth, ecstasy, heroin, cocaine and hash amongst others.

"Once that is accomplished, we will be able to patrol the streets," said Newcomb.

As the duo continues to progress and grow as a team, the Plymouth Police Department is constantly looking for donations of any size to help provide Newcomb with necessary equipment and maintenance for Burder. Donations go toward vet visits, food and equipment to name a few expenses.

Look for more live demonstrations with Newcomb and Bruder, who hope to continue with team demonstrations throughout the summer.

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