On the Beat with Lt. Berg

Lt-BergLt. J.W. Berg is Tucker’s liaison to the DeKalb County Police Department and can be contacted by email at jwberg@dekalbcountyga.gov or by phone at (678) 597-9040.

Due to holiday travel and schedules, we are reprinting an article from August 2018 by former liaison Lt. Schoeppner about the DeKalb County Police K9 unit.

This month we continue our look at the different departments of the DeKalb Police Department with our K9 unit. DeKalb Police currently have 13 police canines. Most of the canines are Belgian Malinois (pronounced MAL-in-wah) with one Czech Shepherd. There are three separate disciplines of classification for these canines: utility, Explosive Ordinance D and single purpose. There are seven utility, or dual-purpose, canines which are utilized to track fleeing felons, find discarded evidence or lost property and narcotics detection. There are four EOD canines which detect explosive odors. They are used to assist bomb technicians and sweep events to keep venues safe. There are two missing person/narcotic detection canines who are attached to the Criminal Investigation Division/HIDTA unit. They can search for missing persons and detect narcotics.

Prospective K9 handlers go through a separate selection process, where they must complete another background check, oral interview and physical agility and strength test. If the applicant is selected, they will be paired with a canine that is selected through an approved vendor and go through the K9 handler school together. After completion of the school, they return to the department and continue to train numerous times a month. Not only do the canines need this training, but the handler needs it, as well. It usually takes a year for the pair to work well together. All the K9 teams are tested once a year in their specific disciplines by the North American Police Work Dog Association (N.A.P.W.D.A.). This testing showcases the K9 teams’ proficiency in their specific disciplines.

The police canines are usually selected between eighteen months and three-years of age. They typically have a seven to nine- year work life and then will be retired to their handlers to relax and enjoy retired life. During the canine’s employment, DeKalb Police Department provides all food, medical care and necessary equipment for the canine. The handler is still responsible for the overall care of their partner on- and off-duty, like grooming and scheduling annual checkups.

Since joining the K9 unit, Sgt. Cusimano and K9 D’Jango have had over 300 deployments, from suspect searches and article searches to narcotic detection. They have made more than 135 arrests, seized nearly $2 million worth of illegal narcotics and seized over $100,000 of U.S. currency (which helps in funding equipment for the police department as a whole). Sgt. Cusimano is amazed at what his canine can do.

“He sure does make me look good,” Sgt. Cusimano explains. He will never forget their first apprehension of a burglary suspect or how his partner led them directly to where the suspect was hiding in a backyard.

DeKalb K9 Officer
Sgt. Frank Cusimano is a 20-year veteran of the DeKalb County Police Department. He began his career in 1998 and was selected to be a canine supervisor/handler in 2013. K9 D’Jango was born in Holland on February 8, 2011. He was selected from his breeder to become a police canine and was shipped to the Kasseburg Canine Training Center here in the United States, where their partnership began.

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