MINOOKA – Minooka police has a new officer. He is young, eager and can be found drooling on occasion.
Ruger, the department’s new drug-sniffing dog, was ceremoniously sworn in as a Morris officer earlier this week along with two other human officers: Renee Parrish and Robert Latz.
Police Chief Justin Meyer said Parrish and Latz are filling open police officer positions.
Ruger, who just completed six weeks of training in Springfield with his partner officer Matt Juras, is the first drug detection dog for the village and is a one and a half year old Labrador-Coon Hound mix.
“He’s a member of this department,” Meyer said. “He brings a smile to everyone in the department.”
Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland, who conducted the ceremonial swearing in at Monday’s Minooka Village Board meeting, said the cost of the dog and training was $13,500, with the cost being paid for through the 12.5 percent the State’s Attorney Office received back from drug forfeitures last year.
The money received must be used for drug enforcement, so along with purchasing the dog, Helland said he used the money to purchase night vision goggles, cameras in Lions and Campbell parks in Coal City for 24-7 surveillance, drunk buster billboards, and two heroin forums offered in the county.
“Grundy County is the third out of 102 counties in the state in drug forfeitures, with over $800,000 forfeited,” Helland said. “I offered to purchase a dog with forfeiture money to the police departments, and Minooka took me up on it.”
The dog was bought in Des Moines, Iowa, and is the second dog for the job: The first one did not pass the rigorous state training to become a police dog.
Police dogs are trained over a six-week course where they are taught to detect narcotics and track people. As part of his tracking certification, Ruger had to find a person four blocks away from where he started tracking.
The tracking aspect can be used not only in tracking criminals, Meyer said, but also if a child goes missing or an elderly resident with dementia walks away from their home and cannot be found.
“Ruger is another resource for the department,” Meyer said. “He will be used in traffic stops, in the schools and for tracking.”
Meyer said the Interstate 80 corridor is a big hub for trafficking drugs to Chicago and having a dog who can search the vehicle will be beneficial in getting those drugs off the street as they stop in Minooka or get pulled over along the highway.
“Drugs are here in Minooka,” Meyer said.
Meyer said Ruger already has been called out to other communities, including Channahon, Morris and Shorewood, and will be available to assist other police departments in the area.
While Ruger has assisted on traffic stops during his first week on the job, he has not yet found drugs during the routine stops.
“A lot of major drug busts start with minor traffic stops and the dog alerts,” Helland said.
Juras said it’s his first time working with a dog and he trained with Ruger in Springfield. The dog resides in Juras’ home with his family.
Juras will participate in ongoing training by attending a bi-monthly canine group in the area, as well as annual recertification with Ruger.
Mallard Point Veterinary Clinic in Channahon is donating vet services including shots and bloodwork for Ruger. The department pays for his food, but is looking for someone willing to donate dog food for him.
Meyer said Juras was chosen to be Ruger’s partner based on police officer performance, length of time on the department and because he is an animal lover.
Two more police officers
Two officers were sworn in this week as Minooka police officers. The job is officer parrish’s first police officer role. She is a 2005 graduate of Reed Custer High School, and she has previously worked as a security guard.
“I like that it is close to home and a lot of people said this is a proactive department, it’s the kind I want to be on,” Parrish said.
Latz is a veteran officer, having served six years with the village of Bradley and three years in Normal. He also is a Reed Custer High School graduate from 2003.
“Minooka is close to home and the community is very involved, which I like,” Latz said.
Latz started in January, and Parrish in March.