Bow police department to revamp K9 program with Labrador Retrievers

K9 Boris of the Bow Police Department

K9 Boris of the Bow Police Department Courtesy

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 04-11-2024 5:33 PM

The Bow Police Department bid farewell to their K9 Boris this year after his handler left the department.

With K9 Boris no longer part of the team, the Bow Police Department is reinventing its K9 program, turning to employ canines for locating missing persons instead of criminal tracking.

Since 2003, the department has employed three K9 officers — Osci, Roxy and most recently Boris — all of which were German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois.

This year, following the departure of Boris’s handler, Matthew LeBlanc, who joined a nearby police department, the select board voted to sell Boris to another department.

Boris joined Bow’s force as a one-year-old German Shepherd in September 2022. He was sold to the Presque Isle police department in Maine for $9000. Even if the Bow police department had managed to appoint a handler from within its ranks for Boris, the new handler would need to undergo the same narcotics and patrol training that Boris has already completed. This training is structured to benefit both the dog and the handler.

Now, the department is seeking a Labrador Retriever, as they are better suited to the town’s needs.

Just within four months of this year, the Bow Police Department has responded to three calls requiring a K9 to track missing persons, with the majority of their calls revolving around locating individuals.

In January, when a 13-year-old went missing in the woods and the department lacked a K9 officer, they had to request assistance from other departments. Before they could find one, the delay was considerable.

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It was dark and cold before one was located, said Chief Ken Miller.

Lieutenant Matthew Pratte clarified that the new K9 will not be a comfort dog but rather a patrol dog, trained to track missing persons, assist individuals in mental health crises, detect narcotics like methamphetamine, fentanyl and heroin, and engage in community outreach as needed.

He said that while German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois are trained to bite, Labrador Retrievers are much friendlier.

“Not that they’re going to bite somebody in that situation. You just never know. They are supposed to bite when they’re presented with a threat or if they’re told to by the handler but in a community environment, you have to be very careful,” said Pratte, at a select board meeting. “With a Labrador Retriever, you get that added benefit of it being a friendly dog that people aren’t going to be intimidated by. It’s great for the officer to do outreach with.”

If there arises a situation where Bow needs a K9 for criminal tracking, the department can engage in mutual aid with the State Police or nearby police departments and offer their new K9 patrol dog for support.

The police department has two open positions and is looking for a handler.

With the remaining funds raised for Boris’ purchase through the Bow Police Association and the proceeds from his sale, the police department has adequate resources to purchase a new dog, provide the necessary equipment and facilitate training. The cost for the new K9 is expected to be between $8000 and $8500.

The new canine handler will be contracted with the department for a five-year term.

“I’ve always had a K9 throughout my career and I’ve seen the benefits time and time again,” said Miller to the select board. “I wouldn’t be here fighting for it if I didn’t feel like it was worth it for the community, for our agency and for keeping personnel.”

The select board voted 4-1 in favor of keeping the K9 program and purchasing a new K9 for the department. Christopher Nicolopoulos voted against it.

“You don’t want to be the reason someone doesn’t have their child anymore. So this is a very real vote,” said Eleana Colby, select board vice chair.