The department has utilized full-service police dogs whenever possible for over two decades. The K-9 program has proven effective for building searches, drug detection, suspect apprehensions, crowd control and locating lost persons.
Officer Fritz has been with the SLPD since 2020. He takes over the program after a previous K-9 officer left the department for private sector employment.
“I felt like I was in a good position to step up and take a leadership role with this program,” Officer Fritz said. He has always enjoyed working with animals, and has experience raising his own dog from a pup into a companion and hunting partner.
He is paired with Ozzy, the Belgian Malinois police dog that has worked with the department since 2019. Community donations made it possible to obtain the dog and outfit the program.
Officer Fritz attended North Iowa K-9 certification training, which focused on drug detection, obedience, tracking, article recovery, building search and suspect apprehension.
Officer Fritz and Ozzy completed about a month of intense training. The training took place in Humboldt – the duo remained there through the weeks, returning home on weekends. “It was a very positive learning experience,” Officer Fritz said. “We will continue to train for at least four hours every week, outside of the normal working schedule.”
Ozzy is proving to be a strong partner, Officer Fritz said. “He is very energetic, and has a really high work drive,” he said. “He is also a very sweet dog, and absolutely loves kids. Beyond the law enforcement aspect, he is a good asset for the department’s public relations.”
While signals can differ somewhat among handlers and animals, most police dogs react to body language primarily, with only about 25 percent of the signals being verbal. Hand signals are reserved mainly for obedience communication. “Ozzy can tell very easily what I want him to do, based on the body language he is sensing from me,” Officer Fritz said. “For example, when I crouch down next to a vehicle with my hand out, he knows we are going to search that vehicle for drugs. “When I take his vest off, he knows that means we are doing a tracking process.”
With initial training complete, the K9 unit is back in action and serving on the streets of Storm Lake again.