Derry Borough’s most easily recognizable police officer is certified for another year of service.
K-9 officer Blade, a 5-year-old Dutch shepherd who has been with the department since he was a year old, completed North American Police Work Dog Association recertification requirements last month and was recertified in narcotics detection in July.
Blade located drugs hidden in a house and school lockers to complete his narcotics detection recertification, and he breezed through a battery of challenges designed to test the skills needed on patrol, including obedience, article search, area search, tracking or trailing, building search, aggression control and handler protection.
“Blade tears it up,” said Derry Borough police Chief Randy Glick, the dog’s handler. “He loves going there and doing this stuff.”
During testing for search and tracking abilities, dogs must find people hidden outdoors and behind closed doors in a building, detect items hidden in a field and follow a scent trail.
For the aggression control test, Blade had to endure provocation from a decoy wearing a bite suit until he was ordered to bite, then release his bite on command and lie down so Glick could frisk the “suspect.”
The handler protection portion of the certification came during the pat-down. When the decoy in the bite suit takes a swing at the handler, dogs must act without direction and bite the decoy to protect their handler.
Blade and Glick are required to train for at least 16 hours each month. They spend time each Tuesday training with other K-9 and human officers from other municipalities.
Maintenance training is key, Glick said. Dogs learn by repetition, he added.
“We do a lot of group obedience,” he said of the maintenance training, which also features work in the other elements of the patrol certification. “We get all the dogs together, which is amazing to watch. We get 15 dogs side by side off-leash, and they don’t bother each other. They do what they’re supposed to do. It’s pretty cool to watch.”
Glick also gives Blade impromptu training in town to keep his skills sharp.
“I’ll get one of the other officers to hide or do something like that. We’ll do practice locker searches,” he said. “We also do the high school and middle school for locker searches.”
Citizens are amazed when they get to see Blade in action. Glick said he used the dog recently to conduct a building search on a call about a burglar alarm.
“I had him search the house before I went in. He can do it so much faster than a regular person or two people going through it,” he said. “There wasn’t anybody in the residence, but he was able to search the entire residence in a matter of a couple minutes. He’s definitely an asset to the department.”
Latrobe Animal Clinic provides veterinary care for Blade free of charge, and Tractor Supply Co. donates dog food, Glick said. The Fraternal Order of Eagles in Derry recently donated $600 to help fund other K-9 officer equipment, and the department holds fundraisers to offset other costs.