Meet Duke, the fierce but friendly Farms K-9 officer

Duke,the Grosse Pointe Farms Police department’s newest K-9 officer, brings a charming smile and a fierce bite to the force.

May 11, 2017

Duke,the Grosse Pointe Farms Police department’s newest K-9 officer, brings a charming smile and a fierce bite to the force.

Duke is a dog of many skills, specializing in human tracking and drug locating. Duke is a recent addition to the public safety force, starting in 2014, and serves as the only K-9 officer for all of the Pointes. He was named after Duke Ellington, a famous jazz singer, as tribute to the “Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe” due to the owners’ donation to the K-9 program.

“They originally wanted to name it Jazz, and I’m glad we didn’t go with that,” Tim Harris, a K-9 handler and public safety officer said.

Harris began working as a public safety officer in Grosse Pointe Farms in 2006 after previously working as a paramedic.

“I was familiar with the area, and I was familiar with the people. I knew how the city worked so it was an easy transition for me,” Harris said. “I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. I hit the lottery with this job.”

The selection process the city undergoes to choose a dog for the job is advanced. The station starts by contacting a dog broker in Ohio named Al Gill. The broker then calls dog sporting clubs in Germany, according to Harris

Photo Credit: Brennan Zihlman

“Schutzhund dog sport is like the major league baseball of Germany. So many clubs breed their dogs to sell as working dogs,” Harris said. “They sell dogs to everyone. China, U.S. and Russia. So it’s fairly common for people to go their for their dogs.”

The broker will fly out to Germany and select 15 dogs to bring back, since that is what U.S. customs will allow. The all black German Shepherd isn’t very common, so whenever Gill sees one on his trip to Germany, he takes it.

“He’s got a thing for Black Shepherds. If you go down to Ohio to evaluate dogs, he almost always gets one or two.We get the dogs anywhere from 10 months to two years old. That’s because the one thing you can’t train into a dog is maturity,” Harris said.

Duke and Harris practice some type of skill everyday. From narcotic detection to human tracking, Harris likes to keep Duke on top of his game.

“You’re only as good as your last find when it comes to K-9’s. If someone calls you out for a track and you don’t find the guy, your dog is worthless. If you find him, all those guys think your dog is a hero.”

Chris Desmadryl is an officer in Grosse Pointe Farms and said he gets to interact with Duke but mostly on traffic stops, Which is a common job for the dog.

“If you see us out on the road and watch us, there’s a whole routine. I have him sit next to the front bumper, then I take the narcotics leash and hook it up to him. Then I wait. Once he’s quiet, then I let him search,” Harris said. “He’ll bark his head off at the beginning then he’ll start searching. That’s only because he’s so excited.”

Harris’ most memorable moment on the force was when Duke got his first live find, where he tracks a person who had committed an armed robbery.

“Tracking is the most rewarding thing we do. It’s the hardest thing we do, and the dog gets it, but it’s the handler reading the dog. Getting a live find at the end of a track is extremely rewarding because most of them don’t end that way. Usually a perimeter officer will catch the guy who is running from us,” Harris said.

The duo’s first live find was in Eastpointe. The call was an armed robbery of a pizza delivery man. The suspect ran through some yards after the robbery to a nearby family member’s home.

“That was the first live find we had, and I will probably remember every detail for the rest of my life,” Harris said.

Harris is also a part of the Grosse Pointe Farms special response team, dive team and even worked as a bicycle officer in addition to having a police dog.

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