By Seth Daniel
In a climate where more than a handful of Revere police officers have recently hit the ranks of the unemployed, there’s one officer on the force who’s willing to work for peanuts, or more likely, kibble.
That officer is no ordinary cop. He is the department’s new K-9 officer, a two-year-old German shepherd named Walsh. The K-9 officer and his handler, Officer Mike Mason, have immediately made a difference on the streets.
“There’s a lot of suspects that will take their chances with officers, either, A, they’ll fight, or B, they’ll hide,” said Mason, a former Marine. “When they hear that K-9 announcement and hear the barking, they reconsider their position. The chance of injury to the suspect and to the officers are tremendously reduced with a K-9 unit…I’ve been doing this 16 years, and I notice a huge difference in people’s behavior when I show up with a dog.”
The Revere Police Department hasn’t had a K-9 unit for more than five years, and got the opportunity last year, courtesy of the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security, to restore it. Through that organization, the police were able to secure funding for Walsh, his training, a K-9 Unit cruiser and uniforms. The only thing that the local police had to provide was the officer, which is Mason, and the dog’s upkeep – kibble.
“What they’re trying to do is help us with terrorism,” said Mason. “The city’s getting this for nothing, really. The federal government footed the whole bill. There were no local taxpayer dollars used for this.”
Police Capt. Michael Murphy said Mason and Walsh would be on call for a number of different emergency situations.
“We were pleased to receive the grant through our affiliation with [our Homeland Security group],” he said. “I am sure they look very favorably on having bomb dogs available throughout the metropolitan Boston area, and given our proximity to the airport, and public transportation systems, I can envision circumstances when Officer Mason and Walsh may be summoned to the airport or an MBTA facility for a crisis.”
Last August, Revere Police picked up Walsh in a “very green condition,” meaning he had no training at all. With Mason at his side, the dog underwent exploding ordinance detection classes and regular patrol classes for more than six months. He was trained in more than 20 odors, from bomb making equipment to drugs to firearms.
Now, he is fully ready to take on the streets of Revere, having started on the job at the end of February.
“He’s probably the most motivated person I’ve come across when it comes to going to work,” said Mason.
That enthusiasm and usefulness has made Walsh a welcome addition to the police force, which sees the dog as a tool to help keep them safer and get to the bottom of crimes more quickly.
“He gives us another tool in the toolbox,” said Mason. “Stuff that would take people a long time to find, a dog can find quickly and efficiently. It’s a load off our shoulders knowing we have that resource available.”
Murphy said Mason and Walsh have already been involved in finding firearms and coaxing suspects out from hiding.
“The K-9’s expertise in locating firearms and ammunition are of great utility,” he said. “Officer Mason has already been involved in at least two weapons recoveries and has also been instrumental in a couple of arrests where the suspect had fled into a building and been encouraged to come out by the mere presence of the K-9.”
One instance was just last month on April 1, when a Beachland Road man charged with kidnapping, civil rights violations and assault charges holed up in his cellar and wouldn’t come out for police.
Instead of sending an officer into the dark cellar and risking injury or a fight, Mason announced the dog’s presence to the man, and after Walsh barked seriously a few times, the man came out with his hands up.
Meanwhile, Walsh has also fit in quite well with Mason and his household.
One of the duties of a K-9 officer is to house and care for his canine partner. When not working, Walsh is housed in a kennel at Mason’s home. However, the dog isn’t treated as the family pet because he’s a working dog. His training requires that he not snuggle up with the kids or chase Frisbees at a family picnic.
“When he’s out of that kennel, he’s working, training or playing in a low-stress environment that supplements his training,” said Mason. “There might be times at 3 a.m. in a dark alley when he may come across someone who wants to hurt him, me, or someone else. If he doesn’t want to work, then it could cost his or someone else’s life.”
In the end, Walsh may be just a dog, but he’s a cop’s cop – hitting the streets day after day with no vacation time, no salary and no fear.
“He loves to go to work,” said Mason. “He works very hard for very little. I would say the affection of his handler is his greatest and only payment he gets.”