West Lafayette’s new K-9 team is ready to work

| April 30, 2021

West Lafayette Police Officer Laurice Mans and K-9 Stryder completed training on April 16. (Submitted)

The West Lafayette Police Department recently added a furry member to the force. Police Chief Matthew Fohl said Stryder, a Belgian Malinois had his state testing on April 16 with handler Officer Laurice Mans and he has been in actual service since then.

That day was set aside for nothing but testing to see if he could do what the state expects him to do. There are standards that the state expects, and he got through it with flying colors. Their exact words were, “he knocked it out of the park.”

“He did great on his certifications,” Fohl said. “He will need to be recertified every year. It’s a refresher so he doesn’t get rusty, and he will be learning new things as the years go along. So far, we are letting them relax because they went through a very intense six weeks of training. We’re just letting the dog get acclimated to his new environment and his new team. There are two reason, number one because Officer Mans and Stryder need time to create a bond and learn to work well together and number two he (Stryder) is not a machine, so he can be a dog and relax a little bit. There will be a solid year before they are comfortable as a team. Then we can look at tactical training.”

Fohl said they still have a little bit of work to do to Mans’ vehicle and will be reaching out to Sheriff Crawford to train with the county K-9 officers.

“The sheriff’s office has two dogs, and we have one,” Fohl said. “I want to discuss schedules with the sheriff so that we can always have a dog available. We want to work with the sheriff’s office to make things run the best that we can. Stryder is trained as a dual-purpose dog and that means he does patrol work and narcotics. Patrol work also includes bite work because he has trained to bite and to track. He does have the ability to track in buildings and out in the open – all over. He can track articles, so if they throw something out, he can track it. Suppose they throw something into an open area, he can track it and bring it back to us. He can also do article searches. He can go back to an area and search and find articles that can be used for evidence.”

Mans said the first time he grabbed Stryder’s leash, he growled at him.

“I have gotten over my fear of being bitten by being bitten. I have been bitten three times,” he said. “It’s been really interesting having a canine. My wife and family have been very supportive. I felt very blessed when he told me he was giving the dog to me. He’s like the Terminator with fur. He can find a suspect who is involved in a violent crime or wanted for something and find missing children and adults. He is good for finding things for us that we can’t find like our taser, body camera, knife, gun, he’s like a swiss army knife with a heart. He’s very intense, very high drive, when he gets out of that car, he knows it’s time to go to work. I’m blessed to have him as a dog. He has a better nose than us and he can see and smell things that we can’t see. If someone has something that they don’t want us to know about, we can’t smell it, but he can. No one wants to get bit by a dog. If we can’t subdue them, they can hear the dog barking, so they know we have a dog. Just knowing that will induce them to take another route. If they have drugs to sell, they will go somewhere else. We don’t have to wait for another county or another dog. We have a dog right here.”

The training was an eye opener.

“It was very intense, it was very knowledgeable, I loved it,” Mans said. “My trainer was very passionate about what he does, he cares a lot and I’m the same way. He doesn’t like to repeat himself. Fortunately, I am a visual learner. Being a K-9 officer, you aren’t going to be involved in just the day-to-day routine. In training they pick up the stress level by making you learn how to multitask. They taught me things I could do that I didn’t know I was capable of. The training in Canton was three minutes from my home and they are very good at what they do. If your training is good and your equipment is good, that means that the dog is going to be good. I make sure he is being taken care of. He may save my life someday. My mentor told me we don’t pick this job, God picked it.”

Mans said he’s worked in small towns his entire career.

“The feedback here has been great. People shake hands with you. Once you are hired here everybody knows who you are. It makes the job worth it,” he said. “Everybody I’ve talked to is pretty excited about Stryder. I’ll never have to worry about defunding the police here. You guys love your policemen.”

Mans also loves football and was excited to see the Ridgewood Generals Stadium. He and his wife and children are looking for a home to purchase in the area.

“I warned him, you are going to get bit,” Chief Fohl said. “I still have scars on my hands. It’s not because he doesn’t like you, he has been trained to do a certain thing. The dog gets so amped up it is bound to happen and it’s usually the handlers mistake. These dogs are very athletic. They do everything fast, fight hard, hit harder, he doesn’t know stop. He’ll be more mature in two years and when he does it every day, he will know more what he is capable of. He’s a young dog so we will have him longer.”

Donations are continuing to come in to help support the new K-9 team. Former mayor of West Lafayette and U.S. Army veteran Jack Patterson presented Fohl with a $250 donation on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans to support the K-9 project. Fohl said there will be at least one maybe two fundraiser this year. “We have got to support the canine project,” he said. “The community outpouring has been amazing.” Fohl also said that Stryder will have a big impact on the drug problem in the community.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said. “There is a recent spike in our drug arrests, but the more drugs you get off the streets, it is going to get better. We’ve got some resources now.  It’s going to look like it is getting worse at first because of the number of arrests but it’s not. We are going after it harder and there is going be a lot more information coming out. It is going to seem like its worse but we are just hitting it harder so we can make it better.”

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