City welcomes Luther to the Claremont Police Department

Move over Dodger, the city has a new crime-fighting partner and he’s ready for his close-up. Meet Luther, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois and the Claremont Police Department’s newest four-legged officer.

Luther and his police handler, Officer Michael Snyder, made their official debut at the Claremont City Council meeting Tuesday night having returned to the CPD on April 10 following seven weeks of Basic Patrol K9 training at ScenturionK9 in Fontana.

The course focuses on obedience, agility, building searches, open area searches, handler protection, article searches, and wind scent searching and is designed to train the K9 team in searching for and apprehending suspects. Officer Snyder and Luther graduated the Basic Patrol K9 course and passed a California POST (Peace Officers Standards and Training) certification test on April 9, allowing the dynamic duo to be deployed and recognized as an operational K9 team within the State of California.

“Luther is trained as a patrol K9 and will be trained as an explosives K9 as well,” explains Chief Paul Cooper. “This will provide us with the ability to utilize Luther to seek out gunshot residue in a car, building or person, search for any explosives that may have been placed at a location or search for explosives residue after an explosion.”

The addition of Luther to the city’s police force was made possible in part from a $10,000 donation from Keeping Good in the Neighborhood (KGNH)—a community watch group serving Claremont. In May 2013, the group announced it would raise money for the police force’s K-9 fund and in February 2015, delivered on that promise.

“As a surprise, I showed up at roll call with 30 officers and presented Chief Cooper with the $10,000 check,” says KGNH founder Betty Crocker. “It was an honor to do it in a private way because these officers are an inspiration, they are why we do it.”

Receiving the support and recognition from the Claremont community is very gratifying, says Chief Cooper.

“While I may have accepted the check, it really was a check to all of the hard working men and women at the department from a community that supports the work they do day in and day out,” he says. “The fact that KGNH and all of the people who donated money through KGNH to fund the purchase of Luther and the K9 program I believe is a testament to the support our department receives from the community,”

A $40,000 grant from State Homeland Security was also received by the department who will put those funds to use for veterinary services, kennels, training aids, leashes, collars, the outfitting of a vehicle, as well as food for Luther.

At a cost of $22,000 including his training, Luther will serve as the city’s first patrol dog since the canine officer program was resurrected in 2012 with the addition of Dodger, a British Labrador trained to identify narcotics.

“Dodger was very well received in the community,” says Chief Cooper. “He is not a patrol dog and so our goal will be to gauge the community support and if it’s there, I would like to add a second patrol dog in the future.”

The canine officer program had previously run from 1989 to 1998, with a pair of German Shepherds named “Mollog” and “Dusty.” Mollog was retired after five years of service and the program was voluntarily shut down after Dusty had an off-duty bite that injured a child.

“We believe our policies and the training that both the K9 and their handler go through are the best safeguards,” says Chief Cooper in preventing a similar incident in the future. “Selecting the right dog that is the right fit in the community they are working in is also a must. We believe we have done that with Luther.”

In 2010, the Claremont Police Department reduced its full time police officer positions from 43 to 35. With the support of the city manager and the Claremont City Council, the department has been able to add back three of those positions. Chief Cooper remains hopeful that more position will be added in the future but believes K9’s are a valuable tool that enhances the services the police department provides to the community without the cost of a police officer. 

“Not to say that K9 teams can replace all police officers, but a well trained K9 team can reduce the amount of time officers spend searching for a suspect(s), searching a building to determine if the suspect is still at the location, searching a building for explosives, bullets, guns, and searching a vehicle or location for drugs,” he says. “They save time and reduce the impact these operations have on an already reduced police force.”

Working as a K9 team means Officer Snyder and Luther are together not only for work, but playtime as well, allowing the pair to form a solid bond as partners.

“He loves to chase the jute,” says Officer Snyder of playtime with Luther. “He’ll chase it until my arm gets tired of throwing it. He brings it back and sets it right at my feet. It’s a game with him and he loves it!”

“He’s a very simple dog,” says the six-year veteran of the Claremont Police Department. “His tail is always wagging.”

—Angela Bailey


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