KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety is celebrating a year of having a fully staffed K9 unit, after adding two K9 officers to their team last year.
"The reason it was so important to add two K9s to the Kalamazoo team is so we could have 24/7 coverage," said Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety K9 Team Sgt. Kelly Pittelkow.
The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS) now has a total of eight K9 officers with two K9-handler duos on each shift.
The department trained the two newest ones, Sledge and Groot, before summer last year.
"Probably about four months after we got them and brought them here to train them, they were all able to certify through our national organization," said Sergeant Pittelkow.
In the last year, the K9 unit handled a total of 638 calls for service. Of those calls, they charged 194 suspects on 282 charges.
"The K9s are used to assist officers in all types of investigations. We certify annually in patrol work and narcotic detection. Patrol work includes building searches, tracking article searches, narcotics searches... just what it sounds like. They're all trained in five different odors of illegal narcotics, and they assist in investigations regarding that," said Pittelkow.
For 2021, the K9 unit recovered $19,675 worth of property, $98,758 forfeited in drug money and seized $34,130 worth of narcotics.
"Their nose is so much stronger than the human nose, so if somebody runs from us, they can assist in tracking them down. If there's illegal narcotics in a car, they can assist in locating that for us. Without the help of them a lot of infested investigations would have to be postponed or sold out completely without that additional assistance," said Pittelkow.
While COVID-19 still impacted a lot of community outreach, the team was still able to host 25 demos and complete 3,033 training hours.
"Sometimes that portion of the K9 team gets overlooked, but they are a great tool for to interact with the community and outreach," said Pittelkow.
Other local law enforcement agencies like the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office and Western Michigan University also use the facility to train their K9s in collaboration with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.
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