K-9 officer Maui joins Marengo PD
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]
The newest member of the Marengo Police Department is young, energetic and eager to work. She’s also the most cost-efficient employee on the payroll, satisfied with a bowl of dog food and her favorite toy as compensation for a job well done.
Maui, a Belgian Malinois, is partnered with reserve officer Dereck Goldman. She graduated in mid-December and is certified in drug detection.
Maui and Goldman were officially recognized at the Dec. 21 Marengo Town Council meeting. Maui demonstrated her skills, detecting drugs concealed in the room along with cash that had been tainted with drug residue.
The 14-month-old can detect five narcotics. Goldman said marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin are the illegal drugs most abused in this area and Maui will alert on all of them.
Maui was trained to passively alert, meaning she doesn’t scratch or bite where she finds illegal substances.
“She doesn’t tear things up,” said Goldman. “To me, that’s a plus.”
Goldman completed a week-long course learning laws related to search dogs. He and Maui spent four weeks training, working Monday through Friday eight hours each day.
Denny Kunkel, a master trainer for the American Police K-9 Association with 30 years experience, conducted the training, which took place at the old English Elementary School.
As of Dec. 21, Maui had officially been walked around just two cars and didn’t alert on either one. Goldman said one of those vehicles was towed and a search did not find any drugs.
“That’s good,” he said. “You don’t want her to alert when there’s nothing there.”
Goldman said Maui was trained using a positive reward system.
“It’s just a game to her. She knows those five odors and, when she sits down on one, she gets a toy. That’s what she’s after,” he said, adding it’s a specific toy Maui receives when she detects drugs.
Goldman said a police dog is a valuable resource in many ways, one being that an animal is completely impartial.
“A dog doesn’t lie; a dog can’t be persuaded and can’t be corrupted,” he said. “She doesn’t know what she’s smelling is bad.”
Goldman said Maui loves people and doesn’t bark or display aggression. If he were threatened, however, she would come to his defense.
“She will protect me,” he said.
Maui is on duty when Goldman is.
“I’m Dad, and she knows it. If I walk out of the room, she follows me,” he said. “I’m not worried about her biting anybody; I wouldn’t have her if she did. She’s smart.”
The addition of Maui brings Crawford County’s K-9 officer total to three.
Goldman purchased Maui from another police department at his own expense. A fall Jeep ride/poker run and raffle raised the $2,500 needed for training.
Having a deep love for dogs since he was a boy, Goldman said he loves raising and training them. He is thrilled to be able to combine that with his job.
“To be honest, I like dogs and I like doing things with them,” he said. “This is a way I could work for the town and have a dog with me. I love watching a dog work, especially when they know what they’re doing, and she knows what she’s doing.”
Marengo Marshal Shawn Scott said Maui is a tremendous asset to the community. Drugs are an ongoing issue, and detecting them is extremely difficult for humans.
“There are so many ways to hide narcotics,” he said. “People go to extreme lengths.”
While an officer may be convinced drugs are involved when the officer makes a traffic stop, proving that is another story altogether. A K-9 changes that.
“This enables the town to have X-ray vision, to put it one way,” Scott said. “We don’t want the drugs here destroying the community and the county. We hope the dogs make an impact.”