HAMLET – In recent years, the country’s public opinion and relationship with law enforcement professionals has shifted, and not in a positive direction, resulting in violence, riots, and lines of allegiance being drawn.
As a result of this, police departments all over the country have been actively working to restore this bruised relationship with the citizens they protect. Some departments have held open houses, while others have hosted car seat safety classes, while other still have done things as extravagant as delivering Christmas gifts to unsuspecting motorists.
But for the Hamlet Police Department, they have one, or make that two, secret weapons for bridging the relationship gap between local citizens and their department.
Standing just a few feet tall, walking on four legs, and covered in fur from head to toe, these secret community connection tools might not be what you would expected.
Their names are Rudy and Edy, HPD’s K9 officers.
“The dogs are an awesome community tool,” stated Hamlet Police Department officer and lead K9 handler Britton Emert. “They give us the chance to interact with the people, show them how this stuff works, and helps me to build a better relationship with the public.”
The K9 department has been an asset to HPD for the past 10 years. For much of this history, the department has been home to two K9 officers. However, when one of these officers retired, they were not immediately replaced, leaving the department with only one active K9 unit.
But for Emert, who took over the K9 unit in 2015, this was a situation that never made complete sense.
“If we lost a police officer, we would hire another one,” he stated. “So, why short change ourselves and stay at one [K9]?”
However, due to funding and a lack of resources that the department now has at their disposal, they were not able to install another officer.
Or so was the case until recent funding became available from a grant HPD received from Wal-Mart of Rockingham. This grant, in conjunction with funding from the department’s narcotic seizures fund, allowed the department to purchase their newest four-legged officer Rudy.
Rudy, a Belgian Malinois, came to the department all the way from Holland. He has since been receiving training for the past three to four months, primarily in the area of narcotics detection, under the supervision of Emert.
However, the addition of Rudy to the team also mean the addition of a second K9 handler. Enter Officer Greg Stone.
Stone, an officer who is new to the K9 department, has since become the handler of Edy, an experienced K9 and Emert’s former partner.
Both Rudy and Edy, who are sworn officers of the department, are trained as multi-functional K9s. Not only are they able to sniff out narcotics, they are also able to detect weapons, track and pursue suspects, and search for missing persons. All of these are talents that Emert believes can provide local citizens a peace of mind.
But for Emert, Rudy and Edy give the department the capability to do more than just that.
“They’re more than just a cool tool for the police department to have,” Emert stated. “The people can see another side of law enforcement. The people don’t just see someone wearing a badge, riding around, trying to catch bad guys. They get to see us working with the animals and having that relationship with them. It just changes their outlook of us.”
Emert also adds, that throughout the year, the department gives several demonstrations in which citizens are able to see examples of these four-legged officers in action and learn what they are capable of.
For more information about the department’s next scheduled K9 demonstration, to schedule a demonstration for an organization, or to simply learn more about HPD’s K9 Unit, contact Officer Emert at (910) 592-2551.