Meet Django

“They rely on you for commands, but you also rely on them”

Training

Django trains for 10 hours every week on new and old skills.

At Home

As soon as Django gets home, he turns on his "I’m a dog" personality.

On the Job

Django is always ready to step up and show off his training in any challenging situation.

Being a K9 Handler

Officer van Hemert is the first female K9 handler in her department since 1980.

As soon as Django gets in the patrol car, he knows he’s at work. The four year old German Shepard accompanies his K9 Handler, Officer Heather van Hemert, for three 10-12 hour shifts every week, patrolling the streets and responding to calls. Trained in apprehension tracking and narcotic detection, Django is an integral part of the his police unit, especially to his human partner. “It’s different with him because we have a different kind of bond,” said Officer van Hemert. “You trust him and rely on him [like a partner], but he relies on me for orders.”

As soon as Django gets in the patrol car, he knows he’s at work. The four year old German Shepard accompanies his K9 Handler, Officer Heather van Hemert, for three 10-12 hour shifts every week, patrolling the streets and responding to calls. Trained in apprehension tracking and narcotic detection, Django is an integral part of the his police unit, especially to his human partner. “It’s different with him because we have a different kind of bond,” said Officer van Hemert. “You trust him and rely on him [like a partner], but he relies on me for orders.”

Training

Becoming a K9 officer was no easy task for Django. K9 Trainer Daniel Inglis of the Inglis Police Dog Academy flew to Germany and handpicked him to move forward with police K9 training. From there, he attended Patrol School for 5 weeks before he was tested for his POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) certification, a requirement in California for police K9s. In addition to receiving this certification, Django trains for 10 hours every week on new and old skills. This includes the apprehension work of finding and detaining a suspect or conducting narcotics searches to maintain his status. Fun fact: because Django began his basic training in Germany, his commands are all in German.

At Home

Once Django's off-duty, he’s like any other dog. ”When he gets in the patrol car, he knows he’s at work and has his work hat on,” said van Hemert. “But as soon as he gets home, he turns on his 'I’m a dog’ personality' where he plays with his brother Loki (a bulldog/boxer mix).” Officer van Hemert says Django’s favorite toy at home is a giant black kong, “he refuses to acknowledge anything else if he sees it out! And he is just as toy-driven at work, where his good behavior is rewarded with a tug-of-war rope made out of firehose materials.”

On the Job

Django, like all police K9s, is invaluable to his police department. Whenever they find themselves in a challenging situation, he is ready to step up and show off his training. One particular story comes to mind for Officer van Hemert. There was a shooting and the suspects fled in a car. Another officer followed the car and attempted to pull it over, but one of the suspects got out of the car and fled on foot. A nearby sheriff’s department had loaned their helicopter with heat sensor technology so the officers were able track and apprehend the suspect without incident. However, the suspect no longer had the gun on him. Although there were several officers searching for the weapon, it was Django who found it very quickly, giving them the hard evidence they needed for the case. Many people don’t realize that police K9s have so many responsibilities beyond how they’re portrayed. Their jobs are not just to find people and attack (although some should rethink their actions when they see Django nearby), but K9s can also detect many things that human officers are unable to, from people to narcotics to explosives.

Being a K9 Handler

Officer van Hemert is the first female K9 handler in her department since the program began in 1980. She has served with her department for 3 years, and worked with Django for almost a year. Selected to serve as a K9 handler is an extremely competitive process. Police K9 Handlers are expected to work with minimal supervision, be adaptable, and communicate well with both animals and people. This position allows for the unique opportunity to work closely with local residents as K9s are frequently shown off at demos, police events and even school meet and greets. “It’s a fun position to be in. You feel responsible for so many things and it’s nice to know you have someone you can always trust by your side,” said Officer van Hemert.
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