BANGOR, Maine — Aki, the German shepherd that arrived recently from Belgium, is the newest member of the Bangor Police Department.
Police officials said this week that Aki (pronounced ah-kee) and his handler, Patrol Officer Jamie Fanning, will leave Monday for 14 weeks of police academy training in Vassalboro.
Once certified as a patrol dog, the 1½-year-old K-9 and Fanning, an officer of seven years, will begin patrol work on the streets of Bangor.
Their duties will consist of searching buildings, drug detection and tracking people, including finding fleeing suspects and locating lost children and people with disabilities.
According to Sgt. Rob Angelo, the department’s K-9 supervisor, Aki also will be trained at the academy to make criminal apprehensions in which it will run down fleeing suspects.
That level of force would be reserved for high threat levels, he said. The Bangor Police Department will conduct Aki’s drug training in-house after he’s certified as a patrol dog.
“At Bangor, we ask a lot of our dogs,” Angelo said. “We ask them to do all the patrol work, which is a pretty long list of things for them to do, follow hour-old tracks that are a mile long, there’s a lot to that patrol certification.”
The arrival of Aki increases the department’s K-9 strength to five dogs: two patrol dogs and three explosive-detection dogs stationed at the airport.
During Aki’s career — police dogs usually work about a decade before retirement — the animal will live with Fanning, who already has three dogs.
Fanning reported that Aki appears to be getting along well with her dogs and, despite being energetic, is “very calm” and “just a dog right now.”
“I just get to work with my best friend all night,” she said of her upcoming work as a K-9 officer.
Angelo said having Aki live with Fanning will help them build a bond and read each other when working. Typically, a police dog will remain with the officer after retirement.
Aki comes to the department at a cost of $1,000, not including training and care. Aki replaces Havoc, a patrol dog the department retired last year.
Angelo acknowledges that Aki represents “a big investment on the part of the city” but said law enforcement dogs can cost in excess of $20,000 and that it is a “rewarding program” despite the expense.
“We’ve been called out for people who have wandered away,” he said. “There’s no crime there, but how valuable is that to find your kid or find your grandmother? That’s happened on more than one occasion.”
Follow Evan Belanger on Twitter at @evanbelanger.