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PSD MARCO service 10/1992-6/2001
Police Service Dog Marco was a 1 ½ year old Dutch Shepard when I first
received him in 1992. He had been flown to the United States from Europe
where he had been selected by the European vendor that our agency
worked with. I had been selected to be a PSD handler and soon met Marco
in October 1992. My new position in my agency had begun on October 12.
I, as well as four other law officers had been selected to join the ranks of the
Police Service Dog Unit. Although it was not a separate Division such as the
Uniform, Criminal or Drug Divisions in our agency yet, we were definitely in a
specialized part of the agency in those days of '92.
Being a K-9 cop had been something that I had been interested in for some
time because of the fact it was fairly new not just in our agency but in our
state as a whole. Sure, there were a few agencies that had police dogs and
had them as part of their agencies for a good long while. Note-worthy was
the capitol city : Lincoln and the K-9 unit they had and how successful it
had been for them. We were originally trained by a dog trainer company
called Detector Dogs International who had been training the Border Patrol
and other agencies all over the country for several years. After eight
weeks of mostly ten to fifteen hour training days, we finally graduated to a
certified PSD Team on December 12, 1992.
Right out of the gates, PSD Marco and me put a small crimp on the ‘drug
traffickers' who ventured across our area on the Interstate and other
roadways. Working hand in hand with other guys such as George Scott,
Andy Allen, Jerry Schenck and Sgt. Chris Kolb; PSD Marco and I were kept
pretty busy. Coming on as a PSD team only a year or so after the first PSD
Team of Jerry Schenck and PSD Nero, we ventured into many great “bad
guy catching” escapades.
Jerry and PSD Nero worked the day shift nabbing smugglers and literally
thousands of pounds of marijuana and cocaine laden vehicles in the early to
late 90’s, (major methamphetamine trafficking had not yet started as the
Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO's) had not yet taken that
enterprise over from the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs-this would soon occur in
the mid 1990’s though).
Myself and PSD Marco would be assigned to the night shift (by my lack of
seniority with Jerry's 19 years versus my 4 years) and we ventured more into
foiling the “breaking and entering” arena of criminality for agencies such as
the Hall and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Departments but mainly the Grand
Island Police Department were the ones who kept me the most busy with the
patrol calls. I still got plenty involved in the drug seizure business watching
Marco sniff them out, but the patrol calls early on was what Marco first
made his name known for.
The GIPD kept me very busy on my night shifts. I still tell the stories to new
guys of Sergeant Pete Kortum of the GIPD who would call me directly at
home for a faster response to their assistance after the first ‘caper’ of a
burglar being caught by PSD Marco. Pete who has been deservedly promoted
through the ranks and now is a Captain with the GIPD and one day most likely
will be Chief, would call me directly at home usually at about 3 or 4 AM while I
was fast asleep in a ‘REM state’ and he would ask for PSD Marco as well as my
assistance. Now you're probably saying, “I thought you were assigned ‘night
shift’ with PSD Marco? Why would you be asleep at 3 or 4 AM?” Well...the
night shift for me was not actually “nights”. It was more like a “swing shift”. I
worked generally either 4 PM to midnight or maybe 6 pm to 2 AM in the
summer. It was generally my luck that I would be asleep when the call
would come from him. Back in those young days of mine, being woken up
once, and sometimes two times in a night for a callout was what I lived for.
The adrenaline really starts flowing fast as you are told the PD (police
department) has a guy surrounded in a building that he was burglarizing, or
a call for the dog because a guy that has denied a copper consent to
search his car and PSD Marco is desperately needed.
Out of bed I would hop, then get dressed in my black patrol BDU’s (Battle
Dress Uniform), gun belt, bullet proof vest and me and Marco would be on
our way as quick as we could. I always knew time was of the essence. The
very first “apprehension” for Marco was a week or so after graduating to
the “streets” as a PSD Team in 1992. Grand Island had never had a PSD Team
in the area and knowing one was available now, the Police; especially Sgt.
Pete Kortum acted upon it with vigor and many times enthusiasm. In a city of
almost 40,000 people it was a target rich area and Marco proved himself
more than once.
On this first callout, dispatch called me at home and said the GIPD believed
they had a guy inside of the Trinity School in Grand Island. I got dressed and
sped off with PSD Marco and met with Pete out in the parking lot. Pete
explained “I’m not sure if he’s still in there Greg... we haven’t had any alarms
from the motion detectors go off in a while so he may have slipped out before
my guys were all set up.” (on perimeter duty). I told him that we’d give it a try
anyway. What the hell? I’m already out of bed; just as well let Marco take a
check inside the school. Even if the bad guy’s gone, Marco still gets the
training aspect of searching the building. At this early stage in his long career,
he would not know if it’s for real or not. Pete advised the fellow officers that
myself and PSD Marco were entering the front doors and that they should
watch their locations with great attention.
We entered quietly only a few feet into the old school. We didn’t use any
flashlights so as to not give our positions away. We crept to the edge of the
long hallway and when I saw that Pete and Marco were ready, I yelled out
my commands as required by policy. “State Patrol!... sound off or I’ll send the
dog!” This was repeated a minimum of two times. A well trained PSD is
supposed to not make a sound during this announcement. It’s called
“surveillance position”. The dog quietly listens for any movements or sounds
away from his handler during the ‘surveillance position’. But the only problem
was that Marco, who was by all accounts a well trained PSD, also had a
reputation that he liked to do things his way sometimes. So on this virgin of
occasions on a real callout, Marco decided to rambunctiously bark
repeatedly the instant he heard those commands from me. In fact he was
so riled up and excited, as I desperately tried to control him by hanging
onto his collar and yelling my lawful commands, he whipped his head back
and decided to see if I’d flinch by him literally biting the hand that feeds
Of course I didn’t feel his canines penetrating my right forearm. In fact I
didn't even realize it until later that the son- of-a-gun had also ripped my cool
agency “raid jacket” with his thirst for the bad guy. As soon as the
commands were yelled and all the commotion Marco was making, it was
pretty obvious to the ‘bad guy’ we really did have a dog.
I then heard footsteps running down the hall. Yes it was the burglar running
and getting away and as quick as I let Marco go I figured this guy was going
to get his butt bit. I mean, my arm had already been bit and I was supposed
to be in the building. The bad guy sure as hell deserved it more than me. PSD
Marco ran down the hall as fast as he could but in all reality was not very
fast. Remember... this was a school. Not a new school with carpet. An old
school with slick tile on the floor. And running on tile with toenails and four
pads is'nt the easiest thing to do if you are a dog.
Bad Guy Michael England had been at the end of the hallway when the
barking started. As Marco ran, and slid, and ran and slid, he came closer to
the burglars butt. But the burglar escaped out the side door just in time for
him (still with the stolen TV in his hands) to run into the waiting arms of Grand
Island police officer Frank Bergmark.
It wasn't the all-time, world-class greatest apprehension of a criminal but it
was a big deal for me as Marco had made his first apprehension. I mean
what was better than catching a burglar running out with a TV still in his
hands into the hands of the police? The officers from the police department
thought it was great, Pete thought it was great, and I definitely thought it
was great. Even Marco thought it was great. I praised-up Marco, took him
home and gave him a piece of steak that was in the fridge. It would
become a very expensive reward as I promised to officers from then on Marco
would get a piece of meat or steak every time he caught a bad guy. It was
only weeks later that Marco got to prove himself all over again. I was called
out by the dispatch that the GIPD had a possible burglar inside of a local
Eventually Marco and I would work day by day for a total of 8 1/2 years.
When I finally had to retire him, it was a difficult decision to make but one I
still feel was the right one to make. Marco had started to get displaysia in the
hip area and with the medication he was taking and the fact that I did not
want to work him til he was crippled, I decided to retire Marco out at age
10. June 1, 2001 was Marco's official last day.
Marco would be responsible in his 8 1/2 years of sniffing out literally tons of
marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine and 'currency galore' and would
receive several specialized awards. His awards include winning Gold, Silver
and Bronze medals repeatedly in both 1996 and 1998 in Salt Lake City at the
Utah Police Service Dog Championships in the categories of : High Risk
Building Search, Toughest Dog, Fastest Dog, Mile and a Half Obstacle
Course, SWAT Dog Deployment and the Dual Dog Deployment
Competition. Marco also would receive a Special commendation for an
apprehension on a cold,dark night in the snow- filled fields of my midwest state
for a suspect out of Texas wanted for several dangerous felony charges.
On February 13, 2004 I would have to put Marco 'down' . Marco was a
great dog and he'll always be one of the agencies finest K-9's.
|Millions of Vehicles will pass you by during your
career... Many of them with criminal activity...Will
you do something about it?