07/04/2007

Newest Wisc. officer has nose for crime


By Amy Guckeen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MILWAUKEE Some things inevitably set Voden apart from his fellow officers at the Milwaukee Police Department - his keen sense of smell, and of course, his four legs and tail.

Chief Nannette Hegerty introduced the latest canine addition to the force Monday. At first glance the nearly 2-year-old German shepherd mix looks like any other dog - barking, sniffing, playing, wagging his tail and protecting his master. Once he's certified in drug detection in August, however, Voden will be able to sniff out marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine and heroin.

"He's young and rambunctious," Hegerty said. "Smelling for drugs is a game to him."

Drug dogs go into shipping companies, where they sniff for packages sent by drug dealers. Although such dogs need to be playful and energetic, with a limited amount of time to get the job done, the dog must also be focused.

"It's really loud, there's lots of trucks, lots of belts," said Voden's handler, an undercover detective whom officials would identify only as Chris. "It isn't worth anything if the dog is scared of a diesel engine. You don't want a dog that's timid."

Braeger Chevrolet donated the $5,000 to purchase Voden in memory of former police officer Jason Monreal, whose father, Joe Monreal, is director of sales and marketing for the dealership. Because Voden came from a shelter, most of the money was spent on his training.

The department employs two types of canines: drug dogs and patrol dogs. The latter aid in the search for criminals and lost people, but the patrol dog unit was disbanded seven years ago. Hegerty has reinstated the program. And Jokerz Comedy Club donated $4,000 to the Milwaukee Police Endowment Fund earmarked for the purchase of a patrol canine. Club owner Scott Krahn is a former Milwaukee police officer.

"Tracking is a job that humans cannot do," Hegerty said. "Dogs can."

Patrol dogs, unlike the ones that search for drugs, must "come from genetic lines to ensure they'll be able to function in that capacity," Hegerty said. The purchase of the patrol dog is out for bid.

Voden replaces Jax, who was retired because of a knee injury. Jax had 10 years of service with the department, police officials said, and once sniffed out $58,000 in drug money.

Copyright 2007, Journal Sentinel Inc.

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