(Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

Forest Park Police have a new K-9 officer on staff.

Shagy (yes, one “g”) is an 18-month-old, 70-pound German Shepherd from the Czech Republic. Officer Samuel Taylor is his handler. The pair graduated December 16 from the Alabama Canine Law Enforcement Officers Training Center in Northport, AL. The 500-hour course usually runs 12 weeks, but Taylor said they finished in ten weeks.

Sporting a blue bow, Shagy showed off his stuff at a press conference at police headquarters. But he’s not a pet. Shagy is a working dog, which means he’s trained to do a special job. His particular job involves biting suspects who try to run away from police. Taylor said that, if kids come up and want to pet Shagy, “I wouldn’t advise it.” However, “If he had his muzzle on, I would let them. But the reason he doesn’t have a muzzle on right now is because I want him to get familiar with the officers. His coworkers.”

Taylor hid a small bag of drugs in different parts of the courtroom, then repeatedly sent Shagy to find it. Each time, it took about two seconds for Shagy’s powerful nose to zero in on the baggie—whether on a table or stuffed under a seat cushion:

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“Most departments, they come down and preselect a dog,” Taylor said. “Sometimes the dogs will be pre-trained. In my case, they just gave me a dog. The first couple of weeks we took getting familiarized with the dog, walking around with the dog or whatever. Then we started a process where they started to train the dog on tracking. They’ll lay a track and we’ll walk it. They’ll lay hotdogs for almost a mile and the dog will follow the tracks. Then we started doing apprehension work, which is bite work—getting the dog familiar with biting. Then we move from the suit to what we call a sleeve. We go without the suit to get the dog familiarized with the transition from biting a person that’s in a suit to apprehending a person without one, a regular person just running.”

Then, Taylor said, Shagy learned how to detect different kinds of drugs—MDMA, cocaine, marijuana, meth—”the dog can distinguish up to four smells at a time. That’s how strong a dog’s nose is.” The training involves putting drugs into PVC pipe so the dogs get familiar with the different smells.

“After that, we just did scenario-based stuff, patrol stuff, and worked on obedience, which is last,” Taylor said. “We do a good job first, and obedience is last.”

Deputy Chief Sandra Johnson said Shagy is an important crime deterrent for the department: “Having K-9 Officer Shagy join our team represents our ongoing commitment to delivering effective and responsive law enforcement services to all in a fair, equitable manner.”

Already, Shagy is on patrol. He checked out an elementary school after a burglar alarm went off to make sure the doors were secure.

“The dog is an officer,” Taylor said. “He’s here to protect and serve, just like we are….He’s not something to be scared of, just like we are. We’re here to serve and protect, and he’s here to do the same.”

Shagy is the department’s first K-9 officer since K-9 Yoeri retired.


Read The Clayton Crescent’s previous coverage of K-9 officers:

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