K9 Bobby helps serve and protect

Geneseo, Ill. -

As the hostile suspect wrestles Sgt. Jamison Weisser to the ground, the Geneseo officer knows help is just a button click away.

Using a remote control on his belt, Weisser is able to open the rear door on his police SUV and release Bobby, the Geneseo Police Department’s K9.

Seeing his handler in trouble, Bobby leaps into action and brings down the suspect.

The sequence of events was part of a demonstration Weisser and Bobby gave at the open house at Maple Ridge Veterinary Clinic in Geneseo on April 18.

The “suspect”  was Illinois State Police Trooper Jason Wilson who, while wearing a bite guard on his left arm, allowed himself to be brought down by Bobby in several different demonstration scenarios.

“It’s hard to find volunteers willing to let Bobby go after them,” joked Weisser to the crowd of approximately 30 watching the demonstration.

Bobby, a 3-year old German shepherd, has been with the Geneseo Police Department since December 2007.

He was brought to the United  States from Hungary and was introduced to Weisser at training sessions in Michigan.

“Bobby was pre-trained when I got him. He knows what he’s doing, it was me who had to be trained,” explained Weisser.

The dog is trained to find narcotics, help capture suspects and do article searches.

“Everything we do is a game to Bobby,” said Weisser. The dog’s ultimate goal is to receive a tennis ball as his reward following an activity.

“The tennis ball is his life,” said Weisser. “He will skip over food to go for the tennis ball.”
Weisser told the crowd, “If anyone has any junk tennis balls, I will take them. We go through about a tennis ball a day.”

Though they may be games to Bobby, the tasks he performs are very serious ones.

Bobby is trained to locate marajuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin and any derivative of those drugs, including crack and ecstasy.

“When he knows there are drugs, his behavior changes,” said Weisser. “His breathing gets deeper and his tail wag becomes more deliberate.” When Bobby locates drugs, he sits or lays down to alert Weisser to his find.

Bobby’s also trained in article search. “He’s not a scent discrimination dog. I can’t hand him a boot or a glove to sniff and tell him to go find a person,” said Weisser.

Instead, Bobby focuses on “human” scents to find items.

“If a suspect tosses something into a field while fleeing, Bobby can find that item a lot faster than we could,” said Weisser.

When an item is found, Bobby normally lays down and places his paws on either side of the article. “He’s trained not to touch it, because we don’t want him damaging evidence,” said Weisser.

“We train a lot using keys on a soccer field,” he said.

When searching for items, Weisser keeps Bobby on an extra-long 15-foot lead. “We work in tandem. He searches with his nose, and  I use my eyes.”

When it’s a suspect Bobby’s after, he’s trained to “bite and hold” said Weisser. “Bobby’s trained to try and get the suspect to the ground until I can get there.”

Bobby is the Geneseo Police Department’s second dog. The department previously had Carlo, who worked with officer Larry Dawson, and retired in 2003.

“Carlo was with the department for 10 years,” said Weisser.

“A few years back, after Carlo retired, case law came out that was extremely harmful to K9 units as a whole and drastically reduced their capabilities. Once that was finally sorted out, it re-opened the door for K9 units,” he said.

At that time, Geneseo began looking at again having a police dog. Weisser “put his name in the hat” to be part of the unit.

“I’ve always had dogs in my life. I  can’t remember a period when I didn’t have a dog,” said Weisser.

“I’d never had a German shepherd before, but from here on out, that would be the dog I’d get,” he said. “They’re extremely smart, loyal and just fantastic.”

Weisser and Bobby do eight hours a month of structured training with other K9 units in the Quad Cities and surrounding areas.

“I’m a younger handler, so those sessions give me a chance to be able to interact with and learn from other handlers,” said Weisser.

On a daily basis, Weisser works with Bobby on basic obedience commands, such as sitting, staying and laying down. Every other day the duo works on more police-specific work such as finding hidden narcotics.

Recently, Bobby also has been learning to work with his new bullet- and stab-proof vest.

The vest, which he’s had for about a week, was donated to the Geneseo Police Department by Gary and Janet Haase of Geneseo after the couple read an article in American Profile about a New Mexico woman’s efforts to buy vests for police dogs.

“Working with Bobby is a whole other aspect of police work,” said Weisser, who’s been with the Geneseo Police Department for seven years. “He’s a partner to me, and we’re together almost 24/7.

“When we work, we’re together, and when we’re at home, we’re together. It’s like working with a partner who doesn’t speak the same language.”

In addition to Bobby’s abilities to assist with police work, Weisser said the dog “makes a fantastic
public relations tool.”

“We’re able to go into schools and talk to kids. The kids love him, which helps us bridge a gap between the police and the Geneseo community,” he said.

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