Just in case you might have noticed, there’s a new police officer patrolling the streets of Dunn. And he’s doing his part to keep the streets safe.
His name is officially Apacs, but you can call him Pacman. He’s a 2-year-old German shepherd and he’s certified to do a lot of things, according to his handler, Officer Wayne Johnson.
Pacman has been trained to sniff out drugs, track, locate evidence, apprehend criminals, handler and officer protection — or as Officer Johnson puts it, a little bit of everything.
Pacman is the latest in K-9 officers for Dunn, his predecessor retired and left the department without a dog. It was when new police Chief Chuck West took over, that the idea for a new K-9 was reignited.
“When I became police chief here I felt like having a K-9 would be a valuable tool to our law enforcement officers,” Chief West said. “We had to reach out to other agencies when we had the need for one, and there was a delay in time, which could bring on some issues about crime scene preservation and also evidenciary needs. I just felt like a K-9 unit would be a vital tool for the department and would help make the community safer.”
When the idea came up, Patrol Supervisor Lt. C.A. White knew who he wanted to take the job. Officer. Johnson has an extensive background in training and handling dogs — military and civilian as well as in other fields — so Lt. White felt he would be a natural fit with Pacman.
“Wayne has an extensive background in training and handling dogs, so it was a natural fit for the position,” Lt. White said. “With him working where he works and being able to interact with all the shifts, it was just a great fit.”
His background is just as impressive as his new partner’s training. Officer. Johnson has trained search and rescue dogs as well as trained drug sniffing dogs.
That seemed to fit right in with the program of getting Pacman ready for the streets. Officer Johnson began training him last April and saw him finally become certified in September.
“He’s making a lot of drug cases, sniffing vehicles on traffic stops, done some search warrant executions, missing persons, armed robbery suspects,” Officer Johnson said. “We’ve been using him quite a bit and we’ve made several drug cases which is the main thing we use him for, he really excels at that.”
Lt. White said for over a year the department was without a K-9 unit and it was a great thing to see another one come into the fold.
“There’s always a huge need and it’s seen,” Lt. White said. “The agency here we take for granted having this kind of things, but we also try to assist other places.”
Those other places need to do little more than call Officer Johnson and ask him to assess if Pacman can be utilized. When he feels like it’s up his alley, Pacman and Officer Johnson respond.
Lt. White gives the duo pretty much a free hand to make the decision whether or not they can be of assistance to other agencies. He says Officer Johnson is the expert when it comes to the dog’s abilities, so why not let him make the decision.
“My thing to him was call me and let me know that if you need to go you make the call,” Lt. White said. “You know what you need to do and you know whether or not it’s a viable track and whether you can do anything with it.”
The integration into the force has been not only good for the department as a law enforcement tool, Pacman has also been welcomed by the community.
Within two weeks Pacman and Officer Johnson were out in the community giving the public a chance to see and meet the dog and learn what he’s capable of doing.
“The kids loved him,” Lt. White said. “He’s brought him out into the community and he’s had him in parades and he’s had him here for everything. That’s excluding all the time he’s been working.”
Officer Johnson wants to dispel one myth about K-9 officers, they don’t just sit around and wait for the chance to take a bite out of a suspect. He says he would rather see the dog use his training for the other areas he’s trained for.
“That’s the last thing you want to do,” he said. “That’s one of the things you try to never do if you can possibly avoid it.”
That goes for Lt. White and the dog as well. Nobody, who respects law enforcement wants to see an officer — with two legs or four — have to resort to force.
“We don’t want to see that dog injured anymore than we want to see an officer injured,” Lt. White said. “Wayne’s as close to him as he is to anybody.”
For the majority of the time Pacman is either in his crate in the back of the car or in Officer Johnson’s office.
“He really likes his car,” said Officer Johnson, who takes Pacman home each night. “That’s his den, so to speak. He’ll throw a fit if the car leaves and he’s not in there.”