Fairfield officer, dog, hired in Henry County
By Andy Hallman, Golden Triangle News Service
The Fairfield Police Department will lose two employees at the end of the day Tuesday, one of which is a human.
Fairfield Police Sgt. David Wall has accepted a job with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office as its K-9 officer, a new position in the department. Joining him on the journey is Uno, a 5-year-old police dog who has been with the Fairfield Police Department for four years.
Tuesday was their last day in Fairfield, and their first day at the Henry County Sheriff’s Office will be Feb. 21.
Wall said Uno is a “dual purpose” police dog who is trained to detect narcotics and is trained to track suspects and protect officers.
“We’ve used him to track people who have run from the police,” Wall said. “Uno follows their scent and the smell of the ground disturbance where they’ve run.”
The police have used Uno to look for missing persons. Wall puts him on a 25-foot leash, which gives Uno enough freedom to track the scent while allowing his handler to keep tabs on him.
Uno is trained to follow voice commands that tell him whether to be nice to the person, like for a missing child case, or to bite and hold them, like for a suspect resisting arrest.
Fairfield Police Chief David Thomas said many law enforcement agencies in southeast Iowa have borrowed Uno from time to time.
“We figured out that no department in Iowa has a lot of equipment,” so the departments have to share resources, Thomas said. He said Fairfield regularly collaborates with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement agencies in Washington and Henry counties.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office used to borrow Uno since it did not have its own police dog, and pay the Fairfield Police Department each year for the privilege. Now it will have to turn to other agencies for help.
Thomas estimated Uno is about two-thirds of the way through his crime-fighting career. The department paid $9,000 to acquire him four years ago, and sold him to the Henry County Sheriff’s Office for $3,000.
Thomas said it will be eight to 12 months before the police have acquired another dog and trained an officer to handle it. He said becoming a K-9 handler requires five weeks of training, which means being down an officer during that time. The department can’t handle that at the moment because it has two new officers and is about to hire another.
Wall will be the third officer Thomas has had to replace since the year began. He remarked that was unusually high turnover for a department that had not lost an employee for the prior three years.
The other two officers to leave were Kathy Blumhagen, who left at the end of 2016, and Jason Chalupa, who took a job with the Washington Police Department in January. Thomas has already hired replacements, Brent Cook and Kurtis Miller. Cook has been an officer before, so he will not require as much training as an officer with no experience.
Thomas asked the city council Monday for permission to hire a third officer to replace Wall. That officer is Krista Svenby, who will start Feb. 20. The hire will bring the department back to 14 full-time officers.