Profile on Lino Lakes police officer Peter Noll and his canine partner Justice. Noll worked with Justice in a hall of the Lino Lakes police department.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

Lino Lakes police officer Peter Noll and his canine partner Justice.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

Lino Lakes police officer Peter Noll gave his canine partner, Justice, a toy so they could play tug-of-war during their 12-hour shift.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

Lino Lakes police add 4-legged rookie

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • January 4, 2013 - 10:43 PM

He's sleek and agile, and he was born with the keen senses needed to be a good police officer. But he's still a rookie, with the eagerness of a puppy.

Justice, Lino Lakes' new K-9, is now out on patrol with his handler, officer Pete Noll. The 1-year-old German shepherd joined the department in the fall. After three months of intense training, he and Noll are getting started on the night shift. Their first patrol was Dec. 9.

Nearly $28,000 in community fundraising paid for the new police dog.

Justice is cross-training in narcotics detection and tracking. He will be able to sniff out criminals and find a lost child wandering in the woods.

The K-9 and Noll also play a critical role in the department's public relations efforts. Most of the time, Justice is the celebrity and Noll is the sidekick.

"Every little kid loves this dog," Noll said. "So many people are drawn to the dog. They don't necessarily care about me. That doesn't bother me whatsoever. It gives me a chance to talk to people, too."

Justice replaces Recon, a dog who retired from Lino Lakes police after a storied nine-year career. Recon stepped down and Justice joined the department on the same day this fall in front of students at Lino Lakes Elementary. A student there, Zachary Skubitz, named the dog after the school won a community-wide fundraising contest.

Justice was born in the Czech Republic and arrived in Minnesota in August, Noll said. The dog was selected for his personality and his potential.

"Justice is a very social dog and he has a very high drive. He likes to work and he continues to go," Noll said.

Noll also was selected for the pairing. Several officers applied to be the department's new officer. Noll, who joined the force six years ago, admits that he and Justice share some personality traits, including their drive.

Noll said he's had dogs as pets before. He'd done some basic obedience training with previous pets and understood the lifetime commitment he was making. A healthy German shepherd can live up to 12 years. The K-9 and Noll are constant companions. Justice lives with Noll and the dog works all 12-hour shifts with his human handler.

At their first meeting, Noll said he was immediately impressed with the dog's energy. Noll was told to expect the dog to be a bit jet-lagged.

"As soon as he got out, he wanted to play right away," Noll said.

Justice arrived with little training, so they started with the basics -- sit, stay. Then, they moved on to police work. Justice can now detect marijuana, heroin, cocaine, crack, meth and hash. Noll will continue to hone his skills training with smaller and smaller amounts of drugs.

Lino Lakes Police Chief John Swenson said he was impressed to learn that the dog had tracked a scent for more than a mile and a half during his first months of training.

"He's very sleek and quick. By all accounts from talking to the trainer, both the handler [Noll] and Justice are doing a fantastic job," Swenson said.

Justice is one of about a dozen police canines in Anoka County, Noll said. The pair will be dispatched to help other departments in need of a dog, Swenson said.

Noll drives a Chevrolet Tahoe equipped with a kennel behind the driver's seat. The dog can poke his head to the front seat and see what's happening while Noll is driving. Noll wears a remote on his belt, so he can release Justice from the Tahoe on a moment's notice.

Noll has had to learn a few new tricks, too, including the law surrounding the use of police canines. Justice doesn't initially accompany Noll during traffic stops. The dog waits in the Tahoe.

A sniff is not considered a search during a traffic stop under Minnesota law, Noll explained.

"We have to have some reasonable suspicion to bring a dog in, but not a search warrant," Noll said.

Fundraising for the dog continues. It will cost $40,000 to pay for the dog, training and other expenses. The nonprofit group, Lino Lakes Volunteers in Police Service, is overseeing the fundraising efforts. Community groups hosted dinners, wrote letters and organized the "Spoil Your Dog" expo to bring in cash, said Andy Bennett, the group's co-chairman.

"The canine unit is a great resource to this department," said Bennett, who also is a member of the police reserves.

Shannon Prather is a Twin Cities freelance writer.

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