Hazel Park’s K-9 unit wins nationwide contest for new police SUV

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 15, 2019

 Hazel Park’s K-9 unit consists of Hazel Park police officer Mike Kasdorf and his dog Lando. Together, they have won a nationwide contest for a new SUV with support from the residents of Hazel Park, who voted for them online daily throughout the month of October.

Hazel Park’s K-9 unit consists of Hazel Park police officer Mike Kasdorf and his dog Lando. Together, they have won a nationwide contest for a new SUV with support from the residents of Hazel Park, who voted for them online daily throughout the month of October.

File photo by Donna Agusti

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HAZEL PARK — During the month of October, people could vote online daily for any of the 30 K-9 units from around the country that were finalists in a contest run by the nonprofit Vested Interest in K9s Inc. The winning cop-and-dog duo would receive a fully furnished Chevrolet Tahoe for their police department.

Now the votes have been tallied up, and Hazel Park’s K-9 unit came in first place. Hazel Park police officer Mike Kasdorf is the handler, and the dog is Lando.

“The support was amazing. I had people stopping me, telling me they voted for me. For a small community to win a national contest is huge,” Kasdorf said. “The community loves K-9 Lando, as you can see by the votes. I had tons of support from friends and family all over the country, but if it wasn’t for the residents of Hazel Park, we wouldn’t have won.”  

Hazel Park Police Chief Brian Buchholz said he was stunned by the results. The new vehicle will save the department money that can now go toward other public safety needs instead.

“The support from the community has been overwhelming. I feel this whole month brought our community closer,” Buchholz said. “The amount of people that supported us by voting and passing it on to their friends and families has reached farther than I ever could have imagined.

“I am still really surprised that we won,” he continued. “It just goes to show how great this community is in supporting us. … Many people put work into the skits, posts, videos, billboards and  other ideas that made this a successful outcome.”

Hazel Park’s K-9 unit was reinstated several years ago; it had been on hiatus since 2013, when it was deactivated due to budget constraints. Kasdorf and Lando graduated from K-9 training at a facility in Indiana. The unit itself was re-established with a donation from Talmer Bank and Trust.

Lando goes home with his handler each night. The department is responsible for making sure the dog’s home has the proper facilities, sleeping arrangements, food, water and veterinary care. The dog becomes a part of the family, going on vacations with its handler or being boarded if it can’t go on the trip. And if the dog retires but the handler still has years of service to complete, the dog still goes to the handler.

“Lando is more than a coworker and pet. He’s my partner, my friend and my companion,” Kasdorf said. “He absolutely loves to work; he loves his ball even more. He has a serious on and off switch. When he’s at home, he’s a lazy dog, but as soon as I put the uniform on, he’s ready to work. He has a loving personality at home, but very serious at work. He likes to sleep on his back, and he snores. When he wants attention, he’ll head-butt you.”

Together, Kasdorf and Lando assist in a variety of cases. K-9s sniff out narcotics and bombs, hunt down suspects who have fled by foot, and locate missing bodies or people in need of rescue. Lando began his training when he was less than 1 year old; usually K-9s don’t start until 2 or 3, but he showed such great promise that he and Kasdorf started earlier. Their training is continuous.

“The K-9 unit provides many services to our own town and neighboring communities,” Buchholz said. “Mike and Lando have had many successful tracks of suspects or evidence, found illegal drugs, and this past summer, Lando located a missing child in River Rouge that quite possibly saved the boy’s life. Mike and Lando also participate in many community events. People really enjoy seeing Mike and Lando.

“The current Ford Explorer that Mike and Lando use was not scheduled to be replaced anytime soon, as we have older vehicles that need to be replaced first,” he added. “Their current vehicle is suffering some wear and tear, so this couldn’t have come at a better time. It is a huge win for the department and the city. It will provide more space for Mike and Lando.”

As for Vested Interest in K9s Inc., it’s a nonprofit based in East Taunton, Massachusetts, that aims to protect K-9s across the country with lifesaving bullet- and stab-proof vests. Each vest is valued between $1,800 and $2,200 with a warranty, backed by private and corporate donors.

“I cannot say enough how much the Police Department and the city of Hazel Park is thankful to Sandy Marcal and Vested Interest in K9s for being so generous with this huge gift,” Buchholz said. “They do so much for K-9s across the country.

“We are being told that we may expect delivery of the Tahoe in four months possibly, and it will be outfitted with the needs for Officer Kasdorf and Lando,” he added. “We are still learning all the steps in the process … to know when it will be ready to use for Mike and Lando.”

Kasdorf said he’s looking forward to the new ride.

“The vehicle will be brand new and more reliable, which will allow us to better serve Hazel Park and surrounding communities. The vehicle is bigger, so I’ll be able to carry more of (Lando’s) needed equipment with me. The vehicle will be equipped solely for K-9, so we’ll be better prepared, and it will have the latest safety equipment, which will make it safer for Lando and myself,” Kasdorf said. “We couldn’t have done this without Sharon Peters, Vested Interest in K9s, city employees and everyone that voted for us. It was a humbling experience, and I’d like to thank everyone who voted.”  

And in a surprise, an anonymous donor gifted a second SUV to the K-9 unit of the police department in Marysville, Michigan, which had the second-highest number of votes.   

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