The newest member of the Northeast Police department is a bit furry.
Jax, a 4-year-old bridle-colored Dutch shepherd will be the official K9 Police dog and Officer Nathan Johnson’s partner. Jax will help the NEPD fight drug crime along the 380 and 377 corridors in the area.
“I love it,” Johnson said. “It’s something that I had an interest in and wanted to do. It was kind of a career goal to eventually do. As a little kid I wanted to be a police officer. Now that I’m here doing it and seeing there are so many different sides to the job, it’s just another neat kind of niche to fill.”
Jax comes from a police department in Colorado. Because cannabis is legal in that state, there was no need for him anymore. Jax is a narcotics dog and has been trained on every illegal substance except acid.
With U.S. 380 and 377 in the vicinity, Johnson said, drugs are a major issue and are found a lot even without a dog.
“It makes our job a little easier,” Johnson said. “Having a dog and being able to do what we need to do to find drugs and get them off the street.”
Johnson has been an officer for over five years. He previously worked for Allen PD and has been an officer with NEPD for a little over a year. After discussing career options with another officer, Johnson decided to tell Chief James Edland what his goals were moving forward within the department.
“I sent him an email a couple of months back and said ‘I want to go to SWAT, we probably won’t be a big enough department to have a SWAT team, but I would like to go do that training. I would like to be an investigator. I would like to be a K9,’” Johnson said. “You know I just laid out everything I want to do in my career.”
The NEPD had been wanting a dog for a while and after another officer decided it was not a good fit for him and his family, Johnson’s opportunity came sooner than later.
“I’m assuming he asked some other officers as well,” he said. “I have the least seniority here, and the newest officer as well. He came to me and said to talk with my wife and see if I still wanted to do K9.”
Johnson was asked on a Friday, and after a little back and forth with his wife, they made a decision Sunday night. By that Monday, Johnson told Edland he was up for the task.
“I came in Monday and said, ‘Yeah, we are good to go,’” Johnson said. “I went up there on a Wednesday. We spent a couple hours together, doing some drills, doing some detection work and playing ball with just him getting to know me. He went back to the hotel with me and has been with me almost nonstop since then.”
Johnson stated that one of the most important aspects about Jax is to recognize his alert and the way he responds when he finds an illegal substance.
“Some dogs have an active alert where they will scratch or bark,” he said. “Other dogs have what’s called a passive alert where they will sit or just stand still. Jax has a passive alert. Whenever he finds where the strongest odor is coming from, … he just statues and his tail stops moving.”
Being a K9 officer is more than just having a dog to help you fight crime. Johnson and Jax will spend the majority of their time together on-duty and off. The bond and trust they build will be crucial for them to create a good partnership.
“The bond is really fun,” Johnson said. “It’s interesting to see how he responds to me versus others and having that relationship is really fulfilling. He really does have his own personality. He’s got his own likes and dislikes, and learning those things and growing together is really fulfilling.”
As of now Jax and Johnson are still working on their bond, so it will be a few months before Jax starts working officially for the department.
“He’s learning to trust me,” Johnson said. “He’s all trained up; he knows what he’s doing. I’ll go to a basic handler’s course and then there’s different national certifications that you can do. So, I’ve got to learn my part and do what I need to do.”