It’s a dog eat cop world
Wade Carpenter, the chief of police in Park City, normally is not the one being chased in a police pursuit.
But on the field outside Treasure Mountain International School on a recent evening, the police chief had an officer after him. The officer, with four legs, a tail and a ferocious set of teeth, had no problem chasing Carpenter down as he tried to get away.
The K-9 officer was part of a demonstration of the skills of police dogs arranged for the Citizen Police Academy, a Park City Police Department program meant to acquaint civilians with police work.
Carpenter, outfitted in a well-cushioned suit designed to keep the person inside safe from dog bites, took off running away from one of the dogs to show the spectators the fleet footedness of the dog.
Carpenter, moving clumsily in the safety suit, could not escape. The dog pounced, taking the police chief down to the ground nearly instantaneously after grabbing his right arm.
In another demonstration, two of the dogs, leashed at the time, grabbed onto Carpenter’s arms in a display of how police dogs keep a suspect from getting away. He tried to wrestle away from the two, but their jaws were clamped, one from the front and one from the back.
"This one, it completely knocked my wheels out from underneath me," Carpenter said in an interview, speaking about the dog that chased him down as he tried to get away.
The dog handlers explained numerous benefits of having a K-9 unit within a law enforcement agency. The dogs can track suspects, search buildings, find illicit drugs and protect an officer, said Mark Ahlberg, a Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office deputy who handles police dogs.
"It’s just up to the imagination of the handler," Ahlberg, who has been a handler for three years, said.
His dog is a 5-year-old German shepherd named Fria who has been with him for three years. She is "very well-mannered, great temperament," he said, adding that she is "very serious when it comes to work."
At approximately 70 pounds, the dog loves to play fetch when she is not on duty, he said. Ahlberg said Fria was brought to Salt Lake International Airport recently to search for illicit drugs in luggage and cargo on international flights.
The Police Department in Park City does not own a dog, instead relying on the Summit County Sheriff’s Office if one is needed. Carpenter said getting one is not a priority for the Police Department given City Hall’s budget situation.
The police chief estimated obtaining a trained police dog would cost between $5,000 and $7,000, and an officer would need to go through specialized handler training. Carpenter said a police dog could have been used during a recent search for a shooting suspect and one could have been brought to Park City High School to track trespassers in a construction zone.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office has three dogs and has had a K-9 unit since the early 1990s. Ron Bridge, a Sheriff’s Office detective and spokesman, said two of the dogs are trained to search for narcotics and the other one is a bloodhound used for tracking people.
"You have to control yourself and the dog," Ahlberg said. "It’s a lot more responsibility."
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