‘We’re off to a good start’: New Sheriff’s Office K-9 settles in to new role

Published 4:32 am Thursday, June 27, 2024

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After months of preparation and training, the newest deputy with the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office started earlier this month.

Chase, the department’s new K-9, began his first official working day on June 4.

Chase’s handler, Deputy Kody Needham, said he found out in August or September he was selected to take on the position, and the department picked out the K-9 in January when the dog was about 1 year old. He was purchased from a company in Eastern Europe that supplies police dogs.

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In January and February, Chase got acclimated with Needham and his family, and in the first week of March, Needham and Chase started a 13-week training at Code Blue K-9 in Rushford. The duo went through training four days a week until Chase graduated May 30.

Needham said the first two weeks of the training focused primarily on narcotics training and introducing the dog to all the odors he’s trained to alert to.

After that, they started patrol school, which in addition to narcotics, also incorporated learning apprehension, tracking and article searches.

Chase received certification through the United States Police Canine Association, with specific certifications in narcotics and scenario-based training.

Out of the three dogs in the training, Needham said Chase barked the least but had the strongest bite.

Needham said the opportunity to be the department’s new handler has been great for him, though it has been busy juggling the new responsibilities, work, and his wife and children.

“It’s probably the best experience of my career so far — especially going to the K-9 school,” Needham said. “It was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this.’ It’s not even work, you’re just going there and you’re training a dog and having fun.”

Since completing training and officially starting with the department, Chase has been utilized in three calls so far, as of the end of last week.

The first was a call for a possible burglary in progress. They conducted an area search, and everything was secured.

On the second call, another deputy found an open door to a business, and Chase was used for a building search.

On the third call, Chase was successful with an article search for the South Central Drug Task Force.

“We’re off to a good start,” Needham said.

The duo has also participated in the Morin Lake Days Parade and went to the Albert Lea Family YMCA for its “Secret Agent” week for camp, where he said the children were excited to see Chase.

Needham said Chase is an energetic, playful dog that is very social.

He said people are welcome to make requests for additional visits or demonstrations through Chief Deputy Tim Bennett, the K-9 supervisor, at tim.bennett@co.freeborn.mn.us.

Sheriff Ryan Shea said the department is excited to have the K-9 team back, and he is hopeful to get a second K-9 in the next couple years.