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‘Titus’ joins police force

Sgt. James Tietje of the Fairmont Police Department is pictured with the department’s newest member, Titus, who has been training with Tietje the past several months.

The Fairmont Police Department recently welcomed a new member to the force. He’s friendly, well-trained, and you might just see him smile and wag his tail.

Working with Sergeant James Tietje, Titus is the department’s new K9. Together, Tietje and Titus recently completed several months of training in Minneapolis, and Titus is officially ready for duty. Tietje shared some insight into Titus and how training to become a police dog works.

“Titus is a 19-month-old German Shepherd from Germany,” he said. “We went to a vendor in Ohio, and then we went through the Minneapolis K9 training and they go and look at the dogs the vendor has and that they want for their class.

“There were six guys in the class and Titus was chosen for me. We told them we wanted a good street dog but we also wanted one with a good mentality who can be around other people on the street, go to public demos and meet children.

“He’s got a good temperament,” Tietje continued. “We started training in the first week of March, and May 24 was graduation.”

When asked about the process, Tietje remarked that the days were long, but well worth it.

“It was a long period of time, long days. I’d go up on Mondays and come back on Thursdays and we’d start in the morning and get done at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. It was cold too, with the snowstorms, so a lot of our training was out in bad weather.”

As for the training itself, Tietje broke down the various aspects.

“They tell us right away that the dogs are going to have some good days and some bad days, but that’s why we’re in training. You start off on small things like article searches and tracking.

“So with article searches, he can find objects that people could throw in tall grass on the road, he could scent those out. He’s trained in tracking people, so people that take off running from a house or a traffic stop he can track that scent. He’s also trained in apprehension, and in narcotics.”

As far as continued training, Tietje said Titus has a yearly certification that he has to go through via the United States Police Canine Association.

“We have to do that every year and that has things like agility equipment like hurdles, climbing a set of stairs, and there’s a 6-foot high wall that he has to climb over and jump.”

Tietje also explained how word commands work, stating that if the dogs follow their commands they can expect a reward at the end of it.

“A common misconception is that police dogs are mean and aggressive, and they’re really not. He can sound mean, he can look mean, and when he’s apprehending somebody he looks like a very aggressive dog, but he’s doing what he’s told. So to him it’s a game.

“If he does everything he’s told he gets a reward, and that’s what he really wants. He wants to be petted, he wants to be played with and so that’s what he’s working for. So if he goes out there and does things correctly, he gets a reward and that’s his motivation.”

As for the K9 program, Police Chief Mike Hunter shared how that got going again.

“In 2017, when the budget process began for putting the together the 2018 budget, we were able to work with the city administrator, mayor and City Council to make sure we had the funds available to re-establish the K9 program in 2018.

“So our goal was to put some money aside for the purchase of the dog, the funding of the school, and some of the additional associated costs. We were able to put that into the budget and get that approved by the City Council, and we were able to the program back on the street.

“We’re very thankful for the support of the council, the mayor and the city administrator to make this a reality again. We’re also thankful to the community, which has been very supportive of the program over the years.”

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