K-9 Officers Ready to Protect and Serve

There’s a saying in the Edmond Police Department: “Always trust the nose.” That’s because four members of the squad are prized for their phenomenal sense of smell. And their speed, agility, intuition and work ethic aren’t bad, either.

The K-9 unit at the Edmond Police Department continues to have a positive effect on the officers who work with the dogs and, ultimately, the citizens they serve. The department’s four K-9 officers, three dogs specializing in narcotics search and one in explosives, make an indelible mark on the law enforcement community.

Among the K-9 units is Mambo, who is paired with Officer Neil Martin. The two are partners in serving Edmond in a variety of law enforcement operations.

“The dogs are invaluable. They’re a great tool,” says Martin, who takes Mambo home with him at the end of every shift. “Especially for tracking and narcotics, there’s nothing that can replace them.”

Martin’s worked with Mambo for several months. The two underwent a training period of eight weeks before patrolling the streets together. Mambo is a multi-purpose dog. His specialty is narcotics hunting, but he’s cross-trained in tracking and other skills.

An example of Mambo’s versatility is the fact that he can go from searching a vehicle suspected of narcotics to tracking an elderly Alzheimer’s patient who has wandered away from home.

“All the dogs are trained in ‘passive tracking,’” Martin says, “which means that they’ll follow the trail, but in a mode where they’re not going to bite. That helps us search for kids, Alzheimer’s patients and
suicidal subjects.”

But when the police are tracking a “bad guy,” all it takes is a verbal command for Mambo to switch gears. The dogs are not only trained to track the scent of someone, they will apprehend him if given the command.

“We have use-of-force policies, and our requirements are if a felony has been committed or for protection of the handler,” Martin says. “We deploy the dogs after giving a warning to someone we’re chasing. A lot of people have an innate fear of dogs and will stop. These are extremely high-drive dogs. They really push themselves hard. But they’re also seamless in going from one thing to another.”

Although the dogs may appear aggressive, they’re not mean at heart. Rather, they’re trained to react to a handler’s commands. When Mambo goes home with Martin at the end of the day, the dog turns into a house pet that chews bones and loves affection. Mambo knows when it’s time to go to work, but he also knows when it’s time to relax. And after a day full of police work, he’s usually ready to take it easy.

“People may see Mambo on the streets and think he’s a mean dog, but they don’t see him flipped on his back chewing a bone,” Martin says. “Watching him go from a house dog to a working dog is really neat. When it’s time to go to work, he pops into that mode. It’s really nice that people have a respect for police dogs. These dogs are committing their lives to protecting citizens.”

Mambo is a German Shepherd, but he’s actually from a Czech bloodline. Such dogs are prized more for their skills and attitude than their physical appearance. Mambo’s coat is a bit darker than a traditional German shepherd, and he has something of a “ghost look” around his eyes.

“In low light, it’s almost like he’s a ghost looking at you,” Martin says. “He’s trained to be the alpha dog, except to me. So if somebody is fearful, Mambo will lower his head and eyebrows toward the person. He picks up on everything.”

Martin gives his commands to Mambo in German. Using a foreign language is typical for instructing a police dog. Mambo knows a few English words, but his police commands
are in German.

Most dogs are from foreign sources anyway, S.P. Martin notes, so memorizing German phrases was part of Martin’s learning curve, and an extra layer of protection.

“You never want someone else to be able to give your dogs a command or confuse them,” Martin says. “You don’t want that dog to hear something in the middle of something big and become confused.”

Martin worked for many years at the Edmond Police Department without a K-9 partner. But he always looked up to the officers with dogs and set a goal for one day serving in that capacity. Having a dog partner on patrol is an extra layer of protection, and capability to serve, he says.

Sometimes that means dog slobber on his uniform, dog hair that won’t brush off his pants or extra hours of training. But it’s more than worth it.

“The dogs always have your back. They’re always ready to do something for you,” Martin says. “They’re willing to give all for us. I really love it. It’s one of the best jobs ever.

Sgt. Bill Gilbert oversees the K-9 units at the Edmond Police Department. “Dogs have been part of the squad since 1984 and they’ve made a difference for officers and citizens,
without fail,” he notes.

“The dogs are an overall tool that is so valuable on a daily basis to us,” Gilbert says. “There’s nothing out there that could ever replace the dogs. We rely on them so much.” 

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