Rochester police officer Michael Knight spends time with the department’s new explosives detection K-9, Pearl.

Rochester police officer Michael Knight spends time with the department’s new explosives detection K-9, Pearl.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


Rochester police hope new K-9 will be ‘the bomb’

Department to add explosive detecting dog

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published March 27, 2019

 Pearl, a Labrador retriever trained  to detect explosives, recently joined the Rochester Police Department.

Pearl, a Labrador retriever trained to detect explosives, recently joined the Rochester Police Department.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

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ROCHESTER — The Rochester Police Department K-9 Unit is getting a new dog dedicated solely to detecting explosives.

During a March 11 meeting, the Rochester City Council approved a purchase of $9,000 to add the new K-9 to the unit.

Rochester Police Chief Steve Schettenhelm said $5,000 will be paid for using forfeiture funds, while the remaining funds — $2,500 to add a second rear grate to the K-9 vehicle and $1,500 for training — will come from the Police Department budget.

Pearl, a Labrador retriever, will be handled by Officer Michael Knight — who also handles Kitt, the department’s tracking, handler protection and narcotics detection dog.

Many K-9 handlers are now working with two dogs, according to Schettenhelm.

“There are four handlers within the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office that carry two dogs with them at all times. Wayne State University carries two dogs, and the Michigan State Police has two dogs, so it’s a pretty common thing throughout the area,” he said.

Having two dogs gives each handler the ability to provide narcotics detection, tracking, handler protection, and either explosive detection or arson detection services from the same vehicle.

The Rochester Police Department has used explosive detection dogs in the past, according to Schettenhelm.

“We use them a couple of times a year. Routinely, at the Royal Park Hotel, we’ve also used them for special events — whether it be the Brooksie Way or the Big, Bright Light Show — in advance. Certainly, having our own K-9 with this kind of capability would allow us to do that more frequently. Given today’s world, it’s certainly peace of mind. To be able to have that dog run through an area prior to an event would certainly be a good thing,” he said.

In addition to obtaining certifications required in explosives detection duties, the required training will advance Knight to the master trainer level.

“His training peers feel enough of his capability and the experience that he has had so far that he has the capability to not only, No. 1, be able to train and work with two dogs in this fashion, but also to learn the skills necessary to train others as well.”

Rochester City Councilwoman Ann Peterson said she is excited about the opportunity to add a dog specializing in explosives detection to the city.

“I just think, with changing times, the density and everything we are going to have here, she will be a necessity. I already appreciate having Kitt here. ... He’s been a great dog,” Peterson said. “I really like all the hard work that’s gone into this, and how serious the handler and the whole department has been with this. Moving forward, I think this is a great move.”

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