By Robert J. Lifka
Following in the pawprints of Hammer, Sam, Bear, Diesel and Killian, the Forest Park Police Department’s new police dog is Madison, a 1-1/2-year-old female German short-hair pointer.
Unlike her predecessors, Madison is not trained in suspect apprehension. However, police Chief Tom Aftanas said she is fully trained in narcotics detection. He added that Madison is not aggressive, a change from the behavior of Killian, her immediate predecessor, who was retired in August following two biting incidents.
Officer Dan Miller is Madison’s handler, a duty he also performed with Killian, Diesel and Bear.
«It’s exciting,» Miller said. «It’s a new challenge.»
He said Madison was imported from Croatia to Shallow Creek Kennels in Pennsylvania and purchased from Shallow Creek Kennels for $9,250. Miller and Madison began training at Full Circle K9 Training Services in Plainfield in January. The village council Monday approved a training services agreement with Full Circle, which will provide two eight-hour training days per month for $250 per month.
After passing her State of Illinois and North American Police Work Dog Association certifications, she and Miller were on duty in early March.
When Killian was retired in August, Aftanas said he was holding off making the decision whether to replace him with another dog.
He said Miller suggested replacing Killian with a narcotics detection dog, which Miller said would be an alternative to stopping the program completely.
Aftanas said he was originally unaware of any police departments in the western suburbs using a police dog strictly for drug detection but then learned about Franklin Park’s police dog, Voodoo. A member of that department since November 2016, Voodoo also is not trained in suspect apprehension and not aggressive.
After being told «nothing but positive things» by the Franklin Park police chief, Aftanas approved the suggestion.
Miller said he and Madison are still adjusting to working together.
For himself, he said a pointer is «a lot different» than a German shepherd, which was the breed of previous police dogs. And for Madison, he said, «There’s a difference between training and street work.»
Part of Madison’s training was learning commands in English. Miller explained that using foreign commands is beneficial for a dog trained in suspect apprehension since suspects are not likely to know commands in a foreign language and therefore not likely to be able to stop a dog from chasing or biting them. However, since Madison is only being used to search for drugs, she was trained with English commands.
«She’s a great dog,» Miller said. «I’ve got no complaints.»
Aftanas said Madison, who also responds to being called Maddie, was named after Forest Park’s main business street but only after he and Miller, two die-hard fans of the Chicago Cubs, considered names with connections to their favorite baseball team.
If Forest Park needs a police dog’s suspect apprehension services, Aftanas said they would make a mutual aid request to neighboring police departments. He said police departments in Berwyn and Oak Park have canine units trained in suspect apprehension.
Aftanas said the department has had police dogs on and off since Hammer joined the force in the 1990s.