By James Bash
For the Hollywood Star News
Imagine going into the dark basement of a house to find to find a man with domestic abuse issues, multiple warrants and a restraining order, who doesn’t want to be found.
When Portland Police Officer Shawn Gore faced that unpleasant and dangerous situation recently, he sent in his dog, Jasco, who found the man wedged in a crawlspace.
The Portland Police K-9 Unit, of which Gore is a member, consists of eight officers, two sergeants, and ten dogs. The unit’s headquarters is located at 4735 E. Burnside St., but the men and dogs usually patrol the city on a rotating 24/7 schedule.
“Because I am a police officer,” said Gore, “I can do everything that other police officers do. But I am lucky that my primary duty is as a K-9 officer. I will take burglary calls and other calls as needed, but my main assignments usually involve finding people and articles of evidence with my dog, and training my dog. Primarily what I am doing is locating fresh human scent, whether it is the suspect who ran from the car and off into the neighborhood, or the guy who is hiding in a building. Basically, the dogs are great locating tools.”
The man hiding in the basement could have been armed with a knife or a gun, ready to ambush the officers as they looked for him. After locking down the area, the police made several announcements for the suspect to come out, but he didn’t respond.
“I then sent my dog down on a search,” explained Gore. “We actually have cameras for our dogs. That provides a level of seeking that we didn’t have before. So I could stay upstairs and never expose myself to the suspect, and watch where the dog goes. My dog went in there and then into a crawl space underneath the house. He started barking in that area. So I went down there and coaxed the guy out. That was safer for him and for us.”
The patrol dogs of the K-9 Unit are usually German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois. Jasco is a German Shepherd, but Belgian Malinois are getting quite popular and are prevalent in the military. They are a short-haired type of German Shepherd, and a little more agile and athletic.
Gore has been with the K-9 unit since 1998. It takes 10 weeks to train a dog. “We get dogs from one to three years old,” he says. “If you can get them to 10 years old, you are doing real well. Our average is a five-year working lifespan. Their normal lifespan is from 10 to 12 years.”
According to Gore, a patrol dog must have courage and drive, but also has to be nice around other people. “We work in tight quarters and work around many different kinds of people, including the homeless. We need a dog that isn’t going to go out and bite everyone. Sometimes we are in a van with some undercover officers. We are looking for nice dogs that can be tough when needed. The dog has to be able to bite a bad guy. We can find dogs that will bite people. That’s not hard to do. But we are talking about selective biting here. That’s challenging.”
Besides using patrol dogs to clear a building, the K-9 Unit uses clues to find suspects who have run away after a robbery. Sometimes people throw away a gun, a knife, a hat, or some article of evidence. Each article will get tested for DNA, and the police may find that it matches someone who has been in trouble before.
Each member of the K-9 Unit works with the dog he has trained. The training continues after the course is finished. Gore trains Jasco every day, even if it is only obedience.
“It’s a great job for those who love it,” remarked Gore, “but it’s a lot of work and it isn’t glamorous. I’m covered in cobwebs and dog hair all the time. For me, it’s an awesome job, and I hope to stay here until I retire.”