ST. GEORGE — During an event at the St. George Opera House Friday afternoon, the St. George Police Department welcomed a new police dog to its K-9 team. The event was an open house hosted by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.
Havoc K9 donated Rambo, a 1-year-old Belgian Malinois male, to the department about a month ago after Rambo completed his initial training with Havoc K9 volunteer Joel Collinn, which included foundational training and getting the new police dog familiar with environments he will be working in, Havoc K9 Executive Director Ricki Draper said.
“Rambo is slated to be a dual purpose police dog, which will be narcotic detection and patrol,” Draper said. “Not all dogs of this breed are cut out for this type of work. There is about a 60 percent success rate with this specific breed.”
After spending nearly a year with Rambo, it’s hard to say goodbye, Collinn said, but he was happy to be able to attend the event before his impending deployment for the Air Force.
“(Rambo has) been with me since he was just 6 weeks old. I really built a bond with him, but I’m proud that he’s on his way to do the job that he was trained to do,” Collinn said. “When I get back, I will come and see how Rambo is doing — get updates on his busts like a proud parent.”
Rambo has been teamed up with his partner, St. George Police Officer Joe Watson, who has been with St. George Police for eight years. Watson and Rambo will be heading to Salt Lake City on Oct. 20 to begin 12 weeks of law enforcement training to obtain state certification. The first six weeks will focus on patrol protection and the last six weeks will be utilized for narcotic detection, Watson said.
“Drugs are a big problem in the area, and if we can have a tool to take care of and help with the drug issue then the whole community benefits,” Watson said. “I think that this is the most beneficial tool to have on a police force. The biggest concern I’m expecting is just me and Rambo learning to trust each other.”
Rambo’s partner was selected through a process that includes an interview and evaluation of the interests and history of the candidate.
“It’s a desired position and a unique position,” St. George Police Sgt. Sam Despain said. “We have to ensure that the person is a hardworking, proactive police officer. Joe Watson was the right guy for the job.”
A raffle for numerous prizes was held during the event to benefit Havoc K9, which has been a nonprofit organization since 2011. The cost of training dogs costs about $20,000 a year. The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association donated $500 to Havoc K9 during the event and gave an engraved vase and flowers to Draper for the organization’s service.
“Ricki and her husband have paid out of pocket around $40,000 to train and care for dogs. They will be getting more dogs in the future that will be donated to police departments throughout Utah,” Timothy Chard, a representative for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said. “Donations for this organization are welcomed.”
Vinnie, a black German shepherd, will be donated by Havoc K9 to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in June 2015.
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