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Newest K-9 now on the streets of St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 3, 2012

 Officer Gerald Chomos and Chase pose outside the St. Clair Shores Police Department Jan. 31. Chase is the newest K-9 on the force.

Officer Gerald Chomos and Chase pose outside the St. Clair Shores Police Department Jan. 31. Chase is the newest K-9 on the force.

Photo by David Schreiber

He’s spent three months in intensive training sessions, learning how to become a human-tracking, drug-sniffing machine.

But even with all that work, he’s still just a young dog.

The newest member of the St. Clair Shores K-9 unit is Chase, a wiggly, hyper, sweet, curious black-faced German shepherd handled by officer Gerald Chomos.

Arriving at the department Oct. 24, on the heels of former K-9 Ivan’s retirement, Chase spent the next three months traveling to K-9 ATF in Wayne, Mich., with Chomos. They worked first on obedience, and then “progressively work your way up and start tracking. Everything starts off with obedience,” Chomos said.

The first month, the pair trained four days per week. That was reduced to two days per week for the next two months. With their Jan. 4 certification, the pair now travels down to Wayne just once per week to continue training.

“When I wasn’t at training, I was here working the roads,” Chomos said. He and Chase are part of the St. Clair Shores Police Department’s traffic bureau. “He was just riding along, getting used to riding around in a car.”

Lt. Steve Lambert, head of the traffic bureau, said Chase is now fully certified in narcotics sniffs and tracking. And with Chase on the job, the department is now fully staffed with K-9 officers.

“We pretty much have continuous K-9 coverage with our other K-9 working the night shift,” he said, referring to Hondo, a 4-year-old German shepherd who has been with the department since June 2008, and his handler, officer Chris Periatt. “We are busy, and a lot of times, we get involved in situations where an officer might make a traffic stop and suspect that the vehicle may contain narcotics. (It is) convenient to request that the on-duty K-9 officer come by.

“If you had to wait for a dog … it may take a half-hour response time, and then you’re wondering about the constitutionality of detaining somebody that long.”

Chase, who will turn 2 years old this month, was born in Germany. Chomos said he’s enjoyed working with him so far.

“There’s still a lot of stuff that we need to learn,” he said. “He’s still a brand-new dog, still a rookie dog, and my, myself, I’m a rookie handler. There’s still a lot of stuff we need to learn and get experience doing so he gets better at it and I get better at it.”

So far, Chase has helped identify a few instances of narcotics possession.

When he’s not on duty, Chase lives with Chomos and his family at their St. Clair Shores home with his other dog, Remi — a 4-year-old Great Dane/Labrador mix. Chase is about 65 pounds right now and will gain another five or 10 pounds before he is done growing.

Chomos picked him for his smaller size.

“It’s been a learning process at home, too, but he does good with my family and my other dog,” Chomos said.

“It’s still a dog, and it’s going to be acting up,” Lambert said, as Chase danced around his office on a recent sunny morning, excited to meet new people. Police dogs are usually on the job until they are 7 or 8 years old, so Chase will have many years working with the department and interacting with the community.

And Chomos said he’s looking forward to that experience.

“It’s always been one of my goals. Even back in the academy, it was something that interested me,” he said. Chomos has been with the department since 2005.