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May 10, 2013

New K-9 unit active in Madison Heights

Local foundation, bank made arrangement possible

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

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New K-9 unit active in Madison Heights
Officer Jeffrey Lewis, a 12-year veteran of the Madison Heights Police Department, stands with the new canine officer, Grim. Together, they comprise the K-9 unit, taking over for officer David Koehler and the last canine officer, Nikko. Nikko now lives with Koehler as a family pet.

MADISON HEIGHTS — The 2-year-old German shepherd, Grim, was raised in the Netherlands and only knows commands in Czechoslovakian.

Now he works nearly 4,000 miles away in Madison Heights, having been donated to the Madison Heights Police Department upon completing certification in Indiana.

Considered an officer in his own right, Grim is one-half of the department’s K-9 unit, the other half being his handler, officer Jeffrey Lewis, a 12-year veteran of the MHPD.

Prior to this, Lewis served as a traffic enforcement officer. He also previously served on the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Madison Heights Police Chief Anthony Roberts said the two make a good team. Roberts noted Grim’s laser-like focus and abundant spirit.

“Grim has a real eagerness to work,” Roberts said. “Officer Lewis had him in here in my office one day when they got back from training, and I was playing with him a bit, and it was apparent he has a lot of energy.”

Lewis and Grim began work as the new K-9 unit in mid-March, when Nikko, the German shepherd who was the previous canine officer, retired after 10 years of service. In that period of time, they responded to more than 1,200 K-9-specific calls.

Nikko’s handler was officer David Koehler, who now works as a road patrol officer, evidence technician and motor carrier officer. Nikko himself continues to live with Koehler as the family pet.   

“I think the officer and the K-9 have a unique relationship, just like any other pet,” Roberts said. “You have the closeness of a bond, and here it’s your actual partner you’re on the road with and you’re living with. You’re with the dog 24 hours a day.”

The program continues at the MHPD, thanks to the generosity of two local groups, both of which donated the funds necessary for the new dog and his training.

They are the Jessica Ann Nagle-Wilson Foundation, run by William and Deborah Nagle, parents of the fallen Hazel Park police officer, and Talmer Bank and Trust, headquartered in Troy. 

“(Officer Nagle-Wilson) loved animals and was dedicated to law enforcement, so the Nagles started the foundation and have donated funds to several departments for K-9s,” Roberts said. As for Talmer Bank and Trust, “They have been an important part of our community, and we’re very appreciative of what they have done for our department.”

K-9s perform a variety of functions. They can track down people who have disappeared or suspects who are hiding or on the run. They are also instrumental in narcotics cases and can search buildings for dangerous materials.

“The K-9s are an effective and diverse tool,” Roberts said. “They save time for our officers. They reduce the number of officers needed for a search. The searches they perform are more thorough, and they help keep our officers, and the community, safe during the apprehension of dangerous criminals.”

The current K-9 program in Madison Heights began in 1999 with Corey Haines, current deputy police chief for the MHPD, and his dog Astor. They served in this capacity until Astor’s retirement in 2002, upon which he lived with Haines as the family pet until his passing in 2010. The cremated remains of Astor are now mixed in the garden outside the Madison Heights Animal Shelter.

“It’s a very unique experience,” Haines said of the K-9 unit. “In my tenure working with Astor, it was amazing — your partner is with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even going on vacations with your family. He’s truly part of the family and always there for you. He’s backup and an excellent tool to increase officer safety. Their abilities just surpass those of the officers when it comes to their ability to smell and locate things we otherwise wouldn’t be able to find.

“Most important, though, is the relationship you forge with the dog,” Haines said. “It’s one of the tools of the trade you bring to work everyday, but it’s still a dog, and it becomes part of your family.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.