K9 officer makes 124 arrests in the last year.

In the current climate of uncertainty all police services are conscious of the need to resolve situations quickly and with the best possible outcome for all concerned. Any police officer can testify to the fact that a seemingly simple domestic dispute or traffic stop can escalate to violence if things are not handled properly. So when answering a call that is already violent in nature officers are always looking for something to stabilize and defuse the situation.

K-9 handler Constable Devon LeBlanc of the Manitoba First Nations Police Service (MFNP) is part of a team that has had some success in this area. Cst. LeBlanc’s partner is Ceto, a three-year-old Belgian Malinois. Since her first arrest in on May 24, 2019, a week after completing her training, Ceto has racked up 124 more. Her handler and other officers involved in these cases continue to be amazed by what she can do.

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Although Cst. LeBlanc and Ceto work together every day, the funding structure for MFNP does not currently provide for a dedicated K9 position. Cst. LeBlanc works a regular shift and Ceto travels with him. They respond to any incoming calls that need their special skills. They are currently responding to calls from seven reserve communities in southern Manitoba, with an eighth to be added in October.

With Ceto averaging over two arrests per week we asked Cst. LeBlanc what an ordinary day is like. He explained, “Every shift Ceto does some training activities like tracking and vehicle searches.” When asked if his partner ever gets bored with the training he replied, “She loves tracking! As soon as the tracking harness comes out she gets excited.” Tracking is fun but her level of intensity makes it hard work for both team members.

As well as tracking and searching Ceto is also trained to use bites to subdue suspects. This is not often used, with only four bites in 124 arrests. Usually the arrival of this team at an investigation results in a prompt surrender. In one instance, the unit was called to a scene where a female victim had been locked in a bathroom by a male perpetrator with a knife. Police arrived and released the imprisoned woman but the man was nowhere to be found. Thinking the man had fled the scene, Cst. LeBlanc asked Ceto to begin a search for his scent outside the residence but she could find no trace. “We knew he must still be inside the dwelling,” said Cst. LeBlanc. A thorough search of every room yielded no results, but a chair in a hallway drew their attention to an attic access in the ceiling. “It was not safe for an officer to poke his head up into an attic with an armed suspect so I issued our standard warning.” This warning informs a suspect that it is time to surrender or risk a bite. When he received no response, Cst. LeBlanc hoisted his canine partner up into the attic space. The suspect, who had been hiding under the insulation in the attic, quickly surrendered.

This example of a successful and safe solution joins all the other arrests, which range from apprehending violent offenders to finding an assault victim lost and unconscious in the bush. Yes, this team has had some success.

© Virden Empire-Advance