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Several nights a week, Brent Kennedy patrols the streets of northeast Dallas as a police officer.
He’s worked more than 1,100 hours already this year.
Kennedy, a retired Army sergeant major, is one of about 75 Dallas police reserve officers, meaning he volunteers his time to serve and protect the city’s residents.
“I know it’s corny, but I think I’m doing a service,” Kennedy said one recent Wednesday as he started an evening patrol shift.
Becoming a reserve officer was a natural fit for the 67-year-old, who hails from a long line of military and law enforcement professionals. His father was an officer in the Coast Guard. His mother and her father served as police officers. And when he was younger, he considered a law enforcement career.
“I was thinking about joining the California Highway Patrol, but the Army won out,” Kennedy said.
He joined the Army in 1961, rising to the highest enlisted rank. He retired in 1994, and then worked for EDS for 10 years.
Several years ago, he decided to join the reserves at the behest of his wife, Carol Ann, who was struggling with terminal ovarian cancer.
“She looked at me one Sunday morning and said, ‘You’ve got to find something to do,’ ” Kennedy recalled.
He settled on joining the police reserves because, he said, he wanted to do real police work.
Kennedy became a reserve officer in August 2006. He works the most hours of any Dallas reserve officer by far, 1,037 hours last year – about 20 hours a week.
Since his wife of 47 years died in early 2008, Kennedy said, working as a reserve officer has given him a way to fill his hours and cope with his grief.
“He’s really dedicated to the job,” said Rick Anderssen, commander of the reserve battalion. “That’s why he’s out there a lot. It’s really a second career for him.”
Several days a week, Kennedy makes the 96-mile round trip from his 25-acre ranch in Van Alstyne to Dallas’ northeast patrol station on Northwest Highway.
He typically works from about 4 p.m. to midnight and is assigned to the Five Points area, although on busy nights, he roams throughout the patrol division answering calls.
Around the station, Kennedy is a regular presence. He carries himself with a calm demeanor and an unflappable attitude that de-escalate potentially volatile situations. Other officers treat him like one of the regulars.
“He’s a darn good, hard-working officer,” said Lt. Mike Black, who supervises Kennedy. “He’s a sharp, street-savvy officer. I’d trust him to do anything that I would any other officer. I’m glad to have him.”
On a recent night, dispatchers sent Kennedy to a reputed drug house, but when he and another officer arrived, they found no evidence of drug dealing.
Next, he was off to an apartment complex where juveniles had used slingshots to propel rocks at several apartments. From there, he went to investigate a report of electricity theft.
It was a fairly mundane night, but they’re not all that way. Once, he was on the scene of a fatal shooting over a dice game. Another time, a man fatally shot his cousin in the heart in a dispute over a slap-boxing competition.
It’s that unpredictability that draws Kennedy to the job – and keeps him there.
“When you get in the car, you just never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
Anyone interested in additional information on the reserves can call 214-725-4000 or go to http://www.dpdreserves.org.
By Tanya Eiserer
For about two decades, when Stamford police officers needed to track a fleeing suspect or scour a house for drugs, they turned to canine units from neighboring departments.
That meant officers often had to wait for an hour or so as departments from as far away as Milford sent canine teams to Stamford. On Tuesday, a State Police dog was sent to downtown Stamford to help track a bank robber, who eventually got away with an undisclosed amount of cash.
Last month, however, the department got its newest members — two German shepherds bred and trained for police work. The revived canine unit should be on city streets in December, but for now the dogs are living with Stamford police officers, who will become their full-time handlers.
The dogs should help police track scents of suspects and missing persons, sniff out drug stashes and subdue violent criminals. Lt. Sean Cooney, a police department spokesman, said the two dogs cost $12,000 each, including their training. The money comes from the Federal Asset Forfeiture program, which allows police to seize property and cash from suspected drug dealers.
Over the years, the canine unit became a point of contention during contract talks between the city and police union, said Sgt. Joseph Kennedy, the union president. Chief Brent Larrabee approached the police union a few months ago and suggested setting up the canine unit outside the contract because of its necessity, Kennedy said.
“It just dragged on and on and on and went from contract negotiation to contract negotiation,” Kennedy said, adding that waiting for another department’s patrol dog “causes a lot of investigations to go south.”Seth O’Brien, one of the Stamford police officers in the revived canine unit, got Stoki last month. O’Brien is a fan of the breed and already has a 5-year-old German shepherd. He said they’re smart dogs, loyal and willing to work, so when the police chief sent out letters gauging interest in housing police dogs for a start-up canine unit, O’Brien jumped at the opportunity.
After stints in a narcotics detail and patrolling the West Side, O’Brien said he always wanted to work with dogs.
Stoki lives with O’Brien in Trumbull with the officer’s wife, two children and Ty, his 5-year-old German Shepherd. A 3-year-old, Stoki spends most of the time in a crate to limit his time with people other than his trainer and handler. Stoki is from Eastern Europe and was bred from a long line of working German shepherds. O’Brien isn’t quite sure what language the name Stoki comes from, let alone what it means.
“I Googled the heck out of it and couldn’t find any meaning for it whatsoever,” O’Brien said.
Officer Dave Dogali has a 19-month-old German shepherd named Bobi. The dog lives with his family in Oxford. On Friday, Dogali and O’Brien took their new partners to Stamford for trips to the veterinarian and some basic drug-sniffing exercises.
Next to a grassy hill outside Stamford High School on Friday, the officers doused wrapped-up towels in synthetic powder that produced scents similar to cocaine and heroin. Stoki barked immediately when O’Brien produced the towel.
Dogali threw the towel into a patch, and Stoki led O’Brien to the area, sniffing around for a few moments before grabbing the towel.
“That was all nose,” O’Brien said. “That was nice.”
William Scribner, a sergeant at the New Milford Police Department, trains police dogs through his private company, Renbar Kennels. He said 18 different police agencies in western Connecticut use canine units for patrol, drug searches and locating explosive materials.
Scribner helped Stamford police shop for the police dogs. He found Stoki and Bobi in the Czech Republic. Before coming to the United States, each was trained in the sport of Schutzhund, which teaches tracking skills and how to protect handlers, among other skills.
He said German shepherds are the breed of choice among police departments and military organizations because they are well-rounded dogs who can excel in several skills at once. He called them “jacks-of-all-trades.”
At the end of the October, Stoki and Bobi will enroll in Scribner’s eight-week training program. The graduation date for both dogs is Dec. 18.
By Jeff Morganteen
Sgt. Michelle Kennedy is the officer in charge of the Cleveland Police Department’s K-9 unit. A 28-year veteran of the force, she’s got a great sense of humor (“I want to start a feline unit,” she says, “cats can go in places dogs can’t, but you just can’t get them to come back”) and an even greater gift of talent onstage. Kennedy has been performing in plays, musicals and operas around town for decades, recently ending a run in “Once on This Island” at the Near West Theatre. Between work, school (she just completed classes in Chinese and religious studies) and caring for her 20-year-old turtle, Kennedy answered a few questions from PDQ’s John Campanelli.
Why are you taking Chinese?
Because I fell and hit my head (laughing). … Someday I want to go to China. I feel if I’m going to go there I should know something about the people and their lives. I at least want to be polite and say hello and be able to say something in their language.
What’s the hardest part about learning the language?
The conversation. Chinese has four tones. So one word, for instance, “ma” can mean four different things. One tone, it lets you know that what was said before is a question. You say it a different way and it’s your mother. You say it another way and it’s your horse, so if you use the wrong tone. … I might say, “Your horse is beautiful” and if I’m looking at your mother, I may wind up in trouble.
What’s your favorite part of being in the theater?
Not being me.
That’s really hard. I would say whichever one I’m doing at the time, but that would be a lie, because some I didn’t like. I’d have to say when I played a character named Jade in “Steal Away.” It was a challenge. Jade is so not me. And I really had to find that part. And not to sound egotistical, but I pulled it off.
That’s a play about older women robbing a bank. Was that a problem for you because you’re a police officer?
For me to be even a halfway decent police officer, you have to be aware of how criminals act. If I don’t have some idea or knowledge of criminals or what they do, how would I recognize them?
How often do you sing opera in your squad car?
(Laughing) Well, I’m behind the desk more now than I am in the car. But I’m sure the guys in the office would say, “Too often.”
What do they think about it?
That’s one way to clear the office. I give them their assignments, and sometimes, you know, if I want them to move quicker, I just start singing some “Carmen.”
How much of the concept of law and law enforcement do K-9 dogs understand?
The dog themselves? They don’t understand. All they know is, it’s time to be together and we’re going to go out here and we’re going to play. We’re going to do what needs to be done.
So sniffing out something or chasing a suspect, that’s playing for them?
In a way, it is. Because they know that, “Hey, they want me to do this. If I do it, I find it, they’ll play with me. I get rewarded.” It’s a game. I know we’re going to have fun doing it. That’s what the dog looks forward to, the interaction.
What’s your best amazing dog story?
It was a real simple thing. We had a dog named Char. And Char was out doing a narcotics search on a vehicle. He was going around the car and he smelled something in the car and he wanted to investigate more, so he just used his mouth and opened the door and went in. Char was an amazing dog.
How do criminals react when they see a dog chasing them?
(Laughing). Well, what if I tell you this: There have been instances where we have pulled up with the dog and told people, “If you don’t come out, we’re sending in the dog.” We could have surrounded the place. They know we’re out there. We’ve got guns, the whole nine yards and they don’t come out. You pull up in that car and you say, “I got a dog” and the dog is doing all the barking, people come out.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s foundation has given the Cleveland K-9 unit equipment and a new dog. Has that made you a Steelers fan?
Well, now, I’ve always been a Steelers fan in the sense of that cousin who comes to visit and stays too long. (Laughing.) No, no. I like the Steelers just as much as I did or didn’t before. But it makes me a Ben Roethlisberger fan.
Does your pet turtle recognize you and understand your voice?
Yes. When I come in, he’ll come over and I’ll talk to him.
Could he be as much help for the Cleveland police as a K-9 dog?
I think he should get with the scuba diving team and have a miniature camera attached to him down there in the murky waters of Lake Erie. I don’t know. That might traumatize him with what’s down there.
Have you ever been putting on the handcuffs and heard a suspect say, “Hey, didn’t I see you in ‘South Pacific’?”
I don’t think I’ve had that one (laughing). I’ve had people say, “You look familiar. I know you from somewhere.” I say, “Well, I’ve been doing this for a while. You’ve probably seen me around.”
Wanted: Men and women with police experience. Must tolerate cold weather and occasional moose sightings.
Police recruiters from Anchorage, Alaska, will visit Ann Arbor next week in hopes of luring experienced officers north.
As with departments throughout the United States, Anchorage is having a hard time finding qualified candidates to patrol its streets, so the department hopes to take advantage of Michigan’s economic troubles by enticing veteran officers with offers of higher pay, better perks and job security.
Recruiters from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., were in Metro Detroit last month. Denver, a couple of towns in Wyoming and the Nevada State Police all have come calling.
There is a law officer shortage nationwide. Rosters have thinned as more retire or take buyouts. Some budget-strained police departments aren’t filling open positions, leaving a bigger workload on fewer officers.
But in Michigan, demand for workers — even police officers — is in decline. Dwindling tax revenues and municipal cutbacks, with the threat of layoffs, have young officers looking for work before the ax falls, said James A. Tignanelli, president of the Police Officers Association of Michigan.
Anchorage’s first stop, Ann Arbor, is considering layoffs, Tignanelli said.
“I don’t think guys are going to be considering Alaska just because they are really into hunting or Fort Lauderdale because they like beaches. They are going to take those jobs because they think they’d better go. If you are 10, maybe even 30 from the bottom of the seniority list in a place like Ann Arbor, you’re looking.”
Criminal justice experts say the nationwide police officer shortage is driven by several other factors as well: Low pay and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have tempted able-bodied, public-service-minded young people into joining the military.
Early retirement packages offered to reduce municipal payrolls also are driving the shortage, said University of Detroit-Mercy criminal justice professor Daniel Kennedy. Many departments lured officers in the 1980s and 1990s with strong pension programs, Kennedy said, and those cops are taking retirements now.
“Just as officers are getting to the point where they’re masters at their craft, they’re leaving,” Kennedy said. “Take an officer who became a police officer at 22. Well, now he’s 42 and he has a full retirement. What we’re seeing is a lot of these officers are taking their retirement and then moving into executive security positions.”
Experienced police officers are attractive to agencies with positions to fill, such as homeland security, because they can save money on training costs, Kennedy said.
“They like officers from cities like Detroit, because they have a lot of experience, and because they’ve already been trained,” Kennedy said. “So it’s a mixture of economics and experience.”
Some police departments are dangling signing bonuses to lure officers. The Houston Police Department last year offered bonuses of up to $12,000 for new hires, while the San Diego County Sheriffs Office recently offered a $5,000 signing bonus.
Anchorage’s recruiting efforts include launching a Web site and touting the area’s relatively healthy economy.
“When we compare our pay and benefits to what it is in the Midwest, even when we do a cost of living comparison, we’re very competitive,” said Anchorage Police Sgt. Michael Couturier.
Couturier said the average starting salary with overtime for a first-year officer in 2007 was $73,918. For an officer with 10 years’ experience, the average salary was $103,921 in 2007. The average salary for a patrol officer in Michigan is $50,960, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The cost of living is higher in Anchorage, however, and someone making $50,000 in the Detroit area would need to make $63,082 in Anchorage.
Benefits include 5.4 weeks of annual leave, four weeks of sick leave and squad cars to take home. The police department also pays college tuition and for books so officers can earn college degrees.
Anchorage officials are also quick to point out that Alaska has one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, with no state, sales or income taxes.
Couturier said he has to clear up a few misconceptions about Alaska when he meets with job candidates. For instance, in Anchorage, there is daylight year round. It fluctuates from 19 hours in June to nearly 6 hours in December.
I couldn’t believe it when the officer said people actually believe the way they get the dogs to find drugs is to addict the dogs TO drugs. Unbelievable.
K-9 units from multiple agencies across the state met in Midwest City for the fourth day of their five day training seminar.
“Operating a K-9 dog is kind of a lifestyle for these officers, and training is not always as easy to find as some other police-type training,” says Lt. Jerry Kennedy, K-9 Supervisor for the Midwest City Police Department.
The first few days focus on basic skills in order to get handlers and K-9s all on the same page. After that, the training difficulty increases.
Officials say K-9s are most used for their narcotics detection, which can be one of the most challenging skills to perfect.
“That’s probably the hardest part: reading the dog, knowing what the dog is telling you and paying attention to the dog,” says Kennedy.
For part of narcotics training in Midwest City, K-9s scan cars, and when an illegal substance is found, the dog either goes completely rigid or scratches at the area until given a toy.
“A big misconception is you have to addict the dogs to the drugs to get them to find them,” says Juston Hutchinson, Trainer for Ameri K-9 Training Kennels. “Believe it or not, they’re just having fun finding the toy, so there’s no ingesting of any narcotics.”
Officials say another important aspect of training for K-9s is apprehension of aggressive suspects who refuse to yield, but the training doesn’t end there. Handlers also work with the K-9s to track dangerous suspects as well as missing persons. Officials say, contrary to some opinions, aggression is not the key to K-9 training.
“They have to be controlled, and they have to understand what the job is,” says Hutchinson.
Hutchinson says the seminar has been a huge success and well worth the time and effort.
Officials with Midwest City say they have K-9 training twice a month, but they hope to expand statewide training to once every one or two years.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Monroe County sheriff’s new car might not be ideal for chasing down fleeing suspects, but it gets about 45 miles a gallon.
Sheriff Jim Kennedy and two other department administrators started driving Toyota Prius hybrids after the cars arrived last week.
The sheriff’s new car isn’t much different from a standard Prius. It has the department logo on the side and will get an interior light bar.
The idea for the hybrid came from County Councilwoman Jill Lesh, who is a member of the southern Indiana county’s fleet financing subcommittee.
“When she first broached the idea, I was skeptical,” Kennedy said.
But he said that rising fuel costs make the hybrids a good addition to the department’s fleet.
Hybrids offer better mileage than comparable gas-only cars by switching to an electric motor whenever possible.
Chief Deputy Scott Mellinger will also use one of the cars, while the third car will be assigned to one of the department’s process servers.
While it would be impossible to switch all department’s squad cars to hybrids, Kennedy said changes will have to be made to deal with high fuel costs.
“American police will grudgingly change, but it will change,” he said.
No one has given Kennedy a hard time about the new car, except some Indiana sheriffs he recently saw at a convention. His own deputies have seemed impressed.
“Some of them want to drive it, but I won’t let them,” Kennedy said.