Sterling Heights police officer Darren Steele walks with Blitz, a police dog, Feb. 15 at the Flynn Educational Center in Sterling Heights.

Sterling Heights police officer Darren Steele walks with Blitz, a police dog, Feb. 15 at the Flynn Educational Center in Sterling Heights.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Police K-9s report for duty at school

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 21, 2018

 Blitz looks upward at his handler during a police demonstration at the Flynn Educational Center.

Blitz looks upward at his handler during a police demonstration at the Flynn Educational Center.

Photo by Deb Jacques

If counting in dog years, Officer Darren Steele has had a role in handling the Sterling Heights Police Department’s K-9 program for over a century.

But on our human calendar, Steele is going on 19 years training dogs for law enforcement work, and he said he believes it to be the best job in the Police Department.

“Honestly, it’s very rewarding, very frustrating, a lot of hard work,” he said. “But when you do all the training with them and watch them grow, and you find the bad guy or get the big drug bust, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.”

Students at the Flynn Educational Center in Sterling Heights got the chance to see what Steele does and watch a pair of police dogs, Ivy and Blitz, in action the morning of Feb. 15. The educational center is home to Warren Consolidated Schools’ alternative high school program.

Steele described the purpose of the visit.

“I think most people are fascinated with police dogs and what they can do,” he said before the demonstration. “We usually go over obedience and talk about how (the dogs) find drugs and how we teach them to do that, and how we teach them to track people.”

According to Steele, both K-9 dogs are Dutch shepherds. He said Blitz is the veteran of the pair. Ivy is only around 15 months old; Steele said she was just certified in tracking and narcotics detection in October. A third Sterling Heights K-9 dog, Chase, was not at the demonstration.

Steele said every dog is different when training, but the ideal goal is for versatility — so they can be effective on the street but also skilled at interacting with people. He explained that Ivy is a more sociable dog.

“It could be the age thing,” he said. “Blitz has always been a little bit more of — all he wants to do is work. He does what he’s supposed to do.

“Ivy, being young, she’s got all kinds of energy. She wants to run around and have fun too.”

The Community High School students who attend class at the Flynn Educational Center are between the ages of 16 and 19. About 30 students volunteered to attend the K-9 presentation. Community High School Program Director Cathy West said the students will write essays about what they learned during the assembly.

“It’s a way for them to earn credit toward graduation,” West said.

West said the students were amazed at how the officer and the dogs communicated with each other. Their presence brought a lot of excitement and interest from the students, who took photos during the presentation.

“They had nothing but great things to say about it,” West said.

According to police, the Flynn Educational Center visit is a community outreach opportunity. Over the last year, Sterling Heights police have engaged in various community initiatives, such as the Community Outreach and Engagement program that assigns liaison officers to neighborhoods in six city districts.

Sterling Heights Police Lt. Mario Bastianelli said that while the police dogs are fantastic for public relations, the officers appreciate them for their role in keeping both police and the community safe.

“They can detect narcotics,” Bastianelli said. “Different dogs are trained to detect bombs. Other dogs search for people. They have different functions.

“Every resource that we have available to our need and access is great, but for the officers, especially on the road and in undercover positions, utilizing a dog is a huge advantage for us.”

Find out more about Warren Consolidated Schools by visiting www.wcs.k12.mi.us. For the Sterling Heights Police Department, call (586) 446-2800.

Staff Writer Maria Allard contributed to this report.