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New K9 joins Vergennes police force

VERGENNES — Officer Adam O’Neill, a three-and-a-half year veteran of the Vergennes Police Department, and his canine side-kick, K9 Kane, on Nov. 21 graduated from the 16-week Police Canine Patrol School held at the Vermont Police Canine Academy in Pittsford.
K9 Kane is a 15-month old German shepherd who weighs about 70 pounds. His fur colors are predominantly black with tan legs. He is a constant companion to Officer O’Neill and spends almost every hour of the day with him. K9 Kane is a very handsome and approachable service dog, and will make a tremendous addition to the Vergennes Police Department; however, K9 Kane is a service dog and must be respected accordingly. 
The patrol school encompasses 544 hours of training, which challenges the handler and his canine together as a team. The course covers basics from obedience techniques to more advanced skills such as tracking and officer protection. The key to success for a K-9 officer and his partner are the handler’s ability to control his canine and read his dog with the smallest of indications from the canine.  The two must become one in their operation as a K-9 can be considered a very high level use of force in certain situations. Repetitious drills, corrections, rewards and documentation are constant staples of the training. K9 teams must be able to work well under all adverse weather conditions as well as during the darkness of night with complete control.
Officer O’Neill and K9 Kane are scheduled to attend the six-week Narcotics Detection Course starting in January 2015 at the Vermont Police Canine Academy, after which K9 Kane can and will be used for narcotics interdiction efforts. A police canine can detect the odor of drugs when officers may not be able to. The mere alert of a narcotics detection canine on a vehicle or package gives the officer probable cause to request a search warrant.
Chief Merkel and K9 Aikido will still be working as a narcotics detection team until K9 Aikido retires sometime in the near future. As a canine reaches the later stages of his/her career, the wear and tear may catch up with them. While Aikido still has plenty of life left in him, Chief Merkel and Aikido will be passing the torch to Officer O’Neill and K9 Kane. 
K9 Aikido, whom Chief Merkel inherited from Vermont State Police Trooper George Rodriguez when he deployed to the Middle East, has led a distinguished career, finding over 500 bags of heroin, 14 grams of marijuana, and a stolen weapon used in an armed robbery in Waterbury. His ability to detect narcotics helped incarcerate a number of residents and non-residents for possession and trafficking of drugs.
Aikido also helped solve another armed robbery in Middlebury; three pharmacy burglaries, two in Vergennes and one in Middlebury; and a burglary of a store in Bristol. And he assisted with tracking a murder suspect in Ferrisburgh. Aikido has also been on two police television series in recent years with Chief Merkel: “Golden Boy,” which is no longer aired, and the HBO series “The Following,” starring actor Kevin Bacon.
The canine program is a huge asset in many ways, from narcotics detection and tracking, to officer protection and building clearing. Another less mentioned benefit to a canine program is the public relations piece. Kids of all ages love to meet and pet a police canine. The mere presence of the dog breaks down barriers between kids and officers. This gives the K9 officer a constant “hook” with kids and enables friendly dialogue between the public and police. 

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