WOODVILLE — The Woodville Police Department has a new member. He’s handsome, with lots of hair and a good disposition, and hails from Belgium.
Raider is the department’s new K-9 unit dog, and his introduction last week at the Woodville Public Library attracted about 70 citizens eager to meet the latest addition to their public safety forces.
Quiet applause greeted him and his handler, Officer Steve Gilkerson, as they came through the front entrance of the converted downtown bank building.
Village Police Chief Roy Whitehead explained that the canine, a 14-month-old Dutch shepherd, had arrived from Belgium in mid-February and was still being trained and acclimated to his new surroundings. The dog was expected to be ready for duty by the third week of May.
Officer Gilkerson kept Raider on a tight leash, uttering commands in Dutch, as the dog darted curiously about the crowd, which included lots of children. People who wanted to pet Raider should do so on his chest and belly, he explained.
“He’s still pretty hyper,” the officer said. “He’s still pretty nervous and has a long way to go.”
Once trained, however, Raider would be able to chase down a fleeing suspect or detect drugs, he explained, adding that the dog would live with him and his family.
Raider also would also be a good tracking dog. “If, God forbid, one of our children turns up missing, he’s a wonderful tool for us to have,” Chief Whitehead said.
Officer Gilkerson drew laughs from the audience when in response to a question, he said, “I have been afraid of dogs my whole life that I don’t know.” He then paused and finished his statement: “I’m comfortable with dogs I do know.”
Woodville has not had a police dog since 2006, when Bruno, its previous police dog, retired.
Putting Raider into service will cost a little more than $15,000, an amount that includes the purchase price and training for the dog and officer, Chief Whitehead said. All of this would be covered by donations from businesses and individuals. Lone Wolf Dog Training and Supply, the Ottawa Lake training school, donated a bulletproof vest for Raider worth upwards of $1,000, the chief said.
Officer Gilkerson turned down an SUV for his K-9 vehicle and instead will use a Dodge police cruiser modified for Raider, the chief explained.
Judy Karchner, a village council member, said she was delighted to have a dog back in the police department. She is the owner of Judy’s Pet Grooming, where Raider will visit every six weeks.
Chief Whitehead said his department had seen an uptick in heroin arrests, as traffickers use State Rt. 20 to sell illegal drugs. Five arrests were made in the last four months. He said Raider would make a big contribution to his department’s effort to reduce drug use.