K-9 team takes first place in national police dog trialsJamin Leuzzo, a corrections canine officer with the Moose Lake-Willow River prisons, and his partner, Chachi, were part of a team from the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) to take first place at the 2011 U.S. Police Canine Association National Police Dog Trials in Detroit Lakes Sept. 18-23.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Jamin Leuzzo, a corrections canine officer with the Moose Lake-Willow River prisons, and his partner, Chachi, were part of a team from the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) to take first place at the 2011 U.S. Police Canine Association National Police Dog Trials in Detroit Lakes Sept. 18-23.
“The DOC team did an incredible job,” said K-9 Officer Rick Jennings. “Taking this first place goes a long way toward showing our dogs are totally under control. Having dogs operate at this level helps ensure the safety and security of our staff and facilities.”
Other DOC team members besides Leuzzo included officers Jennings and Mike Langerman (Lino Lakes prison) along with John Rathai and Chris Persing (Faribault prison).
“I’m extremely proud of what this DOC team accomplished,” said Commissioner Tom Roy. “We take the security of our facilities and the safety of our staff very seriously around here. These guys embody what it takes to get the job done.”
Teams competed in six events: obedience, suspect search, article search, agility, criminal apprehension, and criminal apprehension with a gun. The total points earned by each officer determined who won as a team.
“Officers come here to demonstrate they can control their dogs in various aspects of their work,” explained Leuzzo.
Each officer/canine team starts on a point system and gets docked for anything the dog fails to do
“This is a very aggressive exercise for the dog,” said Leuzzo. “They want to do it and they have fun doing it. It’s strictly play for them, but when they’re up at this level you have to be able to demonstrate that control.”
Teams qualified for nationals through regional competitions last June in Woodbury. At that time, Leuzzo and Chachi scored 649 out of a possible 700 points to qualify as part of the DOC’s department team to go on to national competition. Accompanying them to nationals was fellow Moose Lake-Willow River DOC officer Carl Bennett, who served as a “decoy” in the apprehension and search events.
The National Trial draws the top Police K9 teams from across the United States and Canada, with 150-200 K9 teams participating.
“The trophies are great,” commented Leuzzo, “but the awards are just the result of hard work. It’s not something you aim for coming into it. In reality, we come here for a piece of paper that’s our certification saying we can bring our dog into the facility and work him for another year.”
Leuzzo and Chachi, a 7-year-old German Shepherd, have been working together since fall 2006, after they completed canine training academy in St. Paul. The two of them basically operate alongside the prison’s security squad and respond to all medical or other emergencies to enhance the safety of both staff and inmates.
“Sometimes there are altercations in the midst of potentially volatile situations, such as in the chow hall or the gym,” said Leuzzo, “where there might be 100-150 bystanders.
“You’d be amazed at how the dynamics of a situation change when a canine and handler come on the scene, no matter what’s going on,” Leuzzo added. “We can diffuse a lot of elevated situations.”
Chachi is also certified through the United States Canine Association as a narcotics dog, so he participates in drug searches and also tracking.
Every day Leuzzo and Chachi are on the job is a good day.
“He just loves coming to work with me,” said Leuzzo.
To view a video about Leuzzo and Chachi created after the regional trials this summer, go to the DOC’s YouTube page at http://youtu.be/WNy8yHvWppE.