Friday, 08 February 2013 11:23

Police Dog Service from Swift Current shows its worth after armed robbery

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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Cpl. Jason Goodfellow talks about his work as a police dog handler during a visit to Central School in Swift Current on Jan. 21 with his dog Mako. Cpl. Jason Goodfellow talks about his work as a police dog handler during a visit to Central School in Swift Current on Jan. 21 with his dog Mako. Matthew Liebenberg/Prairie Post

After five years as a RCMP police dog handler, Cpl. Jason Goodfellow has a good understanding of the capabilities of these highly-trained animals.


But a recent trip from Swift Current, where he is based with his dog Mako, to assist officers investigating an armed robbery in Wadena left him surprised at what his dog is able to do.
“There was a lot of people surprised that night,” he said. “I was just blown away.”
Goodfellow was called out on a Saturday night, Jan. 12, after an armed robbery at the Wadena Hotel shortly before 9 p.m. Two men entered the hotel with a shotgun and made off with about $1,500 in cash, liquor and a quantity of cigarettes.
It was already three hours after the incident when Goodfellow arrived on scene. An observant officer found a liquor bottle in the snow and kept everyone away from it to preserve any smells.
“In our training of police dogs, we look for the last known area where the bad guy was,” Goodfellow explained. “What the dog does is he smells that spot where we know they were. Then he follows that track and he won’t go away from the smell of that track.”
In this case the lapse of time since the incident and the location of the liquor bottle in the downtown area made it a difficult assignment for the dog.
“You don’t know who has walked there since then or have been in the area,” he said. “The members on scene were phenomenal in ensuring that no one contaminated the area.”
Mako picked up a scent and started tracking, but Goodfellow was not sure if it would lead to anything.
“You’ve got to trust the dog,” he said. “He’s taking me somewhere. I don’t know where it is, but you got to trust him.”
At around 1 a.m. Mako led the group, which consisted of RCMP members from Rose Valley and Wynyard, to a home in Wadena. The police found two young men, aged 18 and 17, inside with the shotgun and stolen items.
“The satisfaction when they knock on the door and those guys are there, it’s through the roof,” Goodfellow said. “You’ve trained him to do this and now this is the success. ... It’s like when your kid succeeds.”
Mako also proved his worth in two other recent cases. On Jan. 11, the Swift Current RCMP arrested a man after he tracked a suspect from a stolen vehicle to a nearby building.
In November 2012, he found a missing person who got lost near Maple Creek. In this case he was able to follow the scent through a pasture with cows.
“Those are always very rewarding, when you find a missing person,” Goodfellow said. “It was quite cold out and the person was very close to hypothermic.”
The Swift Current Police Dog Service has been in existence since 2010, but the police dog handler position was vacant for a while. Goodfellow started working here in August 2012 after a previous posting in Surrey, British Columbia.
He is happy to be back in Saskatchewan, where he began his RCMP career 15 years ago.
“I wanted a better quality of life for my family and I found it,” he said about moving to Swift Current.
He has been with the RCMP Police Dog Services since 2008, which is a dream come true. It combines his love for dogs with his preference for doing active, outdoor work.
“I joined the RCMP to get into this section,” he said. “It’s all I ever wanted to do. ... I love being around dogs, I love training dogs. I’ve always had dogs as a kid.”
According to Goodfellow, there are about 140 police dogs in Canada, of which seven are stationed in Saskatchewan.
“We train with the dogs all the time and every year we have to validate with our dogs to make sure they pass all the tests,” he said. “There’s a daily regimen to keep him on his toes.”
Their daily training will vary from sniffing out hidden drugs to something as simple as throwing a hammer out of his vehicle’s window.
“I will go back later and just walk along the ditch,” he explained. “He has to identify that hammer and he has to indicate to me that it’s there.”
Mako is trained for narcotic detection, but he is a full profile dog that has also been trained to do tracking, criminal apprehension, riot control and providing support to emergency response teams (ERT).
He is a purebred German Shepherd, the only breed used by RCMP Police Dog Services for general duty teams. He was raised at the RCMP’s Innisfail training centre for police dogs near Red Deer.
“The breeding program is really well-developed,” Goodfellow said. “Your percentages of successful dogs are way increased.”
The Swift Current Police Dog Service covers a wide area from the Alberta and U.S. borders eastwards to around Chaplin and northwards to Rosetown and Kindersley. But at times, it might include the entire southern Saskatchewan and he can be called to support an ERT anywhere in the province.
Goodfellow has been visiting various detachments in his area over the past few months to make them aware of the Swift Current Police Dog Service.
Previously officers might not have considered calling in a police dog for a case because the nearest one had to come from Regina.
“I tell the guys, if you need a dog, just call me, I’m there,” he said.

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