RED OAK — Standing about three feet tall with a nose for finding hidden evidence, Red Oak’s newest crime fighter is ready for service.
Wilson, a rescued Pit Bull, was given a second chance by the Red Oak Police Department and now provides police with another resource in protecting lives and property.
The canine was partnered with Red Oak Police officer John Determan around the end of April. Determan has served with ROPD for the past three and half years, even being named the officer of the year in 2016.
The pair became the second ROPD K9 unit after being certified in the middle of May.
For Determan, he said the dream to work in law enforcement came after watching his father serve as a police and detention officer in the Omaha, Nebraska area.
“I have always wanted to be a canine officer. Omaha is a little bit bigger, and I know a lot of the gang unit and canine cops there,” Determan said. “Being around there and seeing what they do up there drew my attention in wanting to do the same thing.”
To fund the new K9 unit, Red Oak Police received a grant from the Animal Farm Foundation, which is a not-for-profit corporation out of Bangall, New York. The organization has been rescuing and re-homing animals, as well as issuing grants to other humane organizations, since the mid-1980s.
Upon receiving the grant, Wilson was obtained through Universal K9 out of San Antonio. Universal K9 trains dogs for law enforcement and veterans.
“I was a canine handler for 14 years and I am a certified trainer as well. In my experience, I was a little skeptical in bringing in a non-traditional breed. When I saw this dog work with the speed and accuracy that he had it really kind of took me back a little bit in how functional he was,” Red Oak Police Chief Garland Wolf said. “Johnny is trying to get used to working a dog that works really fast. It is almost autopilot. When you tell the dog to find, (you) kind of hang onto the leash.”
Wolf said there were no costs associated with Wilson to the police department since the dog was acquired through the grant program. The only cost was about $2,000 for handler training.
Wolf noted that a single purpose canine and two-to-four-week handler training courses cost about $5,000—9,000. Wilson is dual purpose canine trained in narcotics and tracking.
Once the department received Wilson, Determan went through a canine interdiction school in San Antonio. At the school, Determan was educated on a full range of interdiction techniques as well as what an officer needs to look for when they are on the road. The training consisted of searching passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles and semi-trucks.
Determan said since the school, he does regular training with Wilson to keep their skills sharp, which helps to form a closer bond. He also participates in group training with several departments. These include Dallas ISD, Midlothian, Boyd and Junction Police Departments.
"The lead trainer that I have had is Cpl. Wes Keeling with the Midlothian Police Department. He does all of the group training. He is kind of our lead mentor and canine unit trainer around here,” Determan stated. “I kind of went under his wing. He gave me as much knowledge as he possibly could along with our chief, Garland Wolf. He had dogs when he was one the streets. So all the knowledge that I get between those two is plenty.”
Determan added that Wilson works on a reward system and his reward for doing a good job is a tennis ball. He quipped that Wilson, “will tear up a tennis ball.”
Determan stated that Wilson is making himself at home and becoming part of the family. The three-year-old pit bull has made friends with Determan's wife, Cynthia, along with their children and the family's pet dog, a boxer.
“I got four kids at home and that was another issue. I have got an 11-month old that is crawling around. But he will lick them to death," Determan explained. “At first we were a little bit leery. Not just me but her (Cynthia) as well. She would be devastated if I got rid of him. He is definitely part of the family.”
Determan said the boxer and Wilson get along great and he can let them out into the back yard to play with no problems. He added that he has had no problems with Wilson with his family and that he is a sweet and loving animal.
Wolf said that the department is fortunate to have Determan teamed up with Wilson as a unit and that they are doing phenomenal.
“One of the reasons that I gave the dog to Johnny was because he is a productive officer. He is high energy and it takes a very special kind of individual to be a canine handler. You have to be high energy. You have to be very (meticulous) in regards to records maintenance. There can’t be any holes in the records that someone might be able to challenge in court,” Wolf stated. “He had expressed an interest to me in wanting to be a canine handler when I first hired him. I thought this was a good fit for the department allowing him to take on the added responsibility of a canine handler. So far everything that I have expected from him, he has shown me that he is going to be that high-drive, high-production officer that we look for. Now he has a force multiplier with which is a canine."
Wolf added Determan is training with a good group of canine trainers in the area that support him and work through some of the drills that he needs to become a proficient handler.