Claremont’s new K-9 Officer Recruited to Protect Residents, Combat Drugs
Sgt. Tyler Petrin of the Claremont Police Department had a lifelong dream.
“I always loved dogs, but I never owned one,” he said. “And I’ve wanted to be a K-9 officer since I was a kid.”
Petrin’s dream came true when Maverick, a 2 1/2-year-old, 60-lb Belgian Malinois, reported for duty on September 23. Man and dog had trained at the Boston Police K-9 Academy for 14 weeks. During that time Maverick learned the many basic aspects of K-9 patrol, including handler obedience, tracking/trailing, apprehension, building and area search, evidence recovery and handler protection. The partners subsequently returned for six weeks of specialized narcotics training, during which Maverick learned to detect heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, black tar and other illegal substances.
Petrin, who has been with the department for more than four years, said Maverick was “not overly friendly” when the two first met. “But we worked on it, and pretty soon we bonded. Belgian Malinois aren’t as big as German shepherds, but they have a lot more energy.” Maverick proved his worth at once. “In his first two weeks, he helped another officer track and find a 9-year-old Claremont girl who had run away from home. She was brought back unharmed to her parents. He was also involved in three drug searches.”
Maverick’s skills in drug detection are welcome news to Mark Chase, Claremont’s chief of police. “Our agency is tasked with keeping the community safe. We need as many tools as we can get. Maverick is our newest tool, and we’re glad he’s here.” He highlighted the need in the context of a record 488 overdose deaths in New Hampshire in 2017, and about 300 from January through September 2018.
Chase emphasized that the growing opioid epidemic and consequent criminal activities were the impetus for establishing a K-9 program. “We’d seen the benefit in other agencies, such as Lebanon, of drug detection and deterrence. Both get an important assist from K-9 officers. Capt. Alex Lee in our department took the lead on a grant that eventually brought Maverick to Claremont.”
Lee, a former New Hampshire State Trooper and K-9 officer of eight years, identified and applied for a $42,000 grant from the Stanton Foundation. In addition, he secured a $1,000 donation from the Hannaford Charitable Foundation, which will fund related items such as a ballistic vest.
Together, Petrin and Maverick closely monitor possible drug activity. “If there’s evidence of a crime,” said Petrin, “we’ll use Maverick. I don’t release him from the cruiser until I need him.”
Chase trusts that apprehension and deterrence are key to the war on drugs. “We’re not going to arrest our way out of this crisis,” he said. “If we can quell the supply, then users may take that as a sign that the only way to change their lives, which have become so dismal, is to go through recovery and rehabilitation.”
A crowd of people got their first look at Maverick’s skills at the Fall Festival on Oct. 6, on Claremont’s Visitor Center Green. Petrin and Maverick gave a demonstration that highlighted basic commands, drug detection and suspect apprehension. Joining them was a team from Lebanon Police Department. K-9 Officer Tyler Hewes and Kimba, a German Shepherd-Czech German Shepherd mix, had trained at the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford.
Throughout the demonstration, Lee gave a running commentary of facts, figures and insights into K-9 policing. He noted that Maverick responds to Petrin’s commands in German, and Kimba to Hewes’s in Dutch. Training academies offer foreign languages that officers can choose from. The reason? Each dog has been trained to respond only to its handler’s commands in the chosen language, one a suspect is not likely to know, and so no commands in English can confuse the dog.
When Maverick heard Petrin’s command, he launched into criminal takedown mode — a torpedo with jaws. The Stanton Foundation grant, which is spread out over three years, funded the purchase of Maverick, food and care, and training-related overtime costs. It also provided a kennel for the officer’s garage at home. Petrin points out that this arrangement underscores the fact that although he and Maverick are together 24/7, “he’s a working dog, not a pet. He’s not allowed in the house. He doesn’t sleep on the sofa. The kennel maintains his working status.”
Maverick works the same 12-hour shifts as other officers, 36 hours one week, 44 the next. His career could last a K-9’s average five to seven years, and would be extended beyond that if his work remains up to standards. He and Petrin also travel twice a month for in-service training and further skill development.
Both Petrin and Chase are eager to introduce Maverick to the Claremont community. They are prepared to give demonstrations at schools and civic organizations, as well as conduct searches in businesses. Both, however, want the community to realize that Maverick is not a pet.
“Basically, if you see Maverick around town, it means he’s working,” said Petrin. “He’s been called out of the cruiser to do his work. Don’t approach Maverick to pet him. Don’t approach me, either. We’re trained to protect one another. Anyone coming up to us is perceived as a threat.”
To request a demonstration at a school or civic organization, or a drug search at a business, contact Police Chief Mark Chase, 603.542.9538.
To report suspected drug activity, call the anonymous tip line, 603.542.7026, x1234.