New Haven Police Officers will have to get used to seeing the newest recruit walking into the station on four legs with his slobbering tongue sticking out. “Jet” is his name and sniffing out narcotics is his job as the department’s first K-9 officer.
A rescue from Philadelphia, the 2-year-old mixed breed is a welcome change of pace for his handler, Officer Kyle Walters.
“He’s got a heck of a personality,” Walters said.
Jet came to the force thanks to Police Chief Christopher Hammann, who spoke to several agencies which led him to Sector K9, ran by Texas police officer Wes Keeling. Walters took over from that point, having an interest in becoming a K-9 officer.
“I’ve been around a lot of K9s and have an interest in them,” he said. “I actually have trained dogs myself, hunting dogs. So, the obedience and the training work go hand-in-hand. I think that’s one of the things that paired me up well. I’m definitely a dog person.”
Keeling told Walters about the Animal Farm Foundation, a nonprofit that works with K-9s. The organization helped pay for Jet and the training that came with it. Both Walters and Jet went to Ferris, Texas, to train for two weeks at the Ferris Independent School District.
“They donate their facilities for Sector K9 to come in and Animal Farm Foundation to do this in their facilities,” Walters said. “It’s a way to go into classrooms, gyms and other buildings to search. We used vehicles too.”
The community also has been supportive of Jet. An anonymous donation paid for the entirety of a new K-9 unit police vehicle. Between the car, Jet and training, Walters said he believes the department saved nearly $60,000 in combined costs.
The only cost the department had to pay for was $500 for Walters’s hotel room in Texas. According to Animal Farm Foundation, dogs like Jet cost nearly $20,000.
According to Walters, Jet is trained to sniff out narcotics such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana.
“Like it or not, Franklin County is getting really bad for not only meth, but heroin,” Walters said. “We’re still having a lot of problems with marijuana and different forms of marijuana.
“Jet can indicate and find all of that,” he said. That’s how he is going to help us. New Haven doesn’t have a lot of crime. Our biggest problem is drug related.”
The training itself was a bit different from what Walters is used to.
“It’s a whole different ball game,” he said. “There’s a lot you can see is done, but you don’t know how to do it. Wes (Keeling) down at Sector K9 is awesome. He starts you off at the very beginning.”
Jet’s focus will remain on narcotics for now. Walters said he may be trained in tracking in the future. He isn’t an aggressive dog.
Walters and Jet remain pals after work.
“So we’re together 24 hours a day,” Walters said. “He not only works with me on 12-hour shifts, 15 days a month, plus whatever training he has, he also goes home with me. We spend time together at home. I do some obedience work with him at home, but mainly, home is just to relax. He plays in the backyard, he plays with another dog every once in a while.”
Walters has a year-and-a-half-old Labrador that he tries to keep Jet separated from despite both wanting to be friends.
Walters has been with the New Haven Police Department for seven months, and an officer for nearly nine years. He grew up in Columbia and worked the majority of his time near the Lake of the Ozarks. He and his wife, Launa, a registered nurse, are expecting their first daughter in September.
“It’s a big change this year,” Walters said.