Chief James G. Downes III
23 Pleasant Street
PO Box 154
Dunstable, MA 01827
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Dunstable Police Department Offers an Inside Look at the NEMLEC K-9 Unit
DUNSTABLE — Man’s best friend is working to make a difference through a partnership with police officers assigned to the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) K-9 unit.
Dunstable Police Chief James G. Downes III met with representatives from NEMLEC’s K-9 team last month during his Groton Dunstable 911 video series.
NEMLEC is a consortium of police departments in Essex and Middlesex counties and two county sheriff’s departments that work together to share resources and personnel in times of need.
Sgt. John Harring from the Billerica Police Department and Chelmsford police officer David Leo, along his canine Flacko visited Dunstable to share how the K-9 program benefits cities and town in the state.
Harring, who first got into police work in 1989, now supervises the K-9 unit for NEMLEC, which consists of 60 officers and 15 dogs that specialize in tracking and apprehension, narcotics, gun powder detection and human remains recognition.
Leo has served as a canine handler for almost 12 years and has been at the Chelmsford department for approximately 20 years.
“My dog is a patrol dog, dual purpose,” Leo said. “He does patrol and he does narcotics work. Between the two, I bounce from town to town, city to city.”
To show residents and viewers the type of work K-9 units are typically involved in, Downes brought Harring, Leo and Flacko to Dunstable’s high school gym for a demonstration.
Flacko is a 4-year-old German Shepherd. This breed is typically chosen for K-9 units given their versatility.
“They can take many tasks on and do a very good job at them,” Harring explained. “They’re great at tracking, searches and they’re very obedient.”
Obedience, Harring continued, is important in a dog because during a call, the handler must have control of the canine at all time.
K-9 dogs attend 16 weeks of patrol training before they’re assigned to duty. Canines like Flacko participate in an additional 6-week course to be certified in narcotics recovery.
Handlers are encouraged to work with their dogs everyday to maintain their skills and the K-9 units also attend regular patrol, narcotics and NEMLEC courses.
While not on the job, the dogs head home with their handler and are often an integrated member of the family.
For the demonstration, Leo and Flacko illustrated how an article search, or evidence recovery, is conducted. This type of activity is implemented when officers need to find a piece of evidence that was thrown out or stolen in a crime.
Using human scent, which can last up to three to four days on an item depending on weather conditions, the canine can locate the missing item.
Leo threw a piece of material into a corner near the gym’s bleachers and then told Flacko to find it. Within moments he had located the item and alerted his handler by lying down near it.
K-9 units are also vital resources during missing person searches.
“Usually by the time NEMLEC responds to a missing person it’s several hours old and there have been some assets already deployed in that area to search for them and that person can’t be found,” Harring explained.
Two years ago, one February evening, Harring remembered the NEMLEC K-9 unit assisting Dunstable to find a woman who had been missing for six or seven hours.
“So we deployed and within 30 minutes, found the missing person in the woods under a tree – who was not going to be located, who was near death,” Harring said.
At the end of the segment, Downes thanked Harring, Leo, Flacko and all the members of the NEMLEC K-9 unit for their continued support and assistance.
“You folks have been an excellent asset for us as just outlined here in your story, and that’s only one story. You’ve been here numerous times,” Downes said. “I also want to say the response is quick. It’s been 24/7. I appreciate the dedication on and off the job.”
To watch the full video on the NEMLEC K-9 unit, visit the Dunstable Police Department’s Facebook page. For more information on NEMLEC, visit nemlec.com.