There’s a new police dog in town, according to Sergeant Esther Campbell of the City of Flint Police Department. Sgt. Campbell is in charge of the department’s K-9 units and is also a former dog handler. My City Magazine had the opportunity meet her and the newest K-9 Unit – Officer Andy Grocholski and his four-legged partner, Sonitrol, a 19-month-old German shepherd. As Sonitrol frolicked about and curiously sniffed each person who walked through the door (occasionally barking), Andy says with a smile, “He’s still a puppy!”
“We are so thankful for the donations and all the people who helped make this happen.”
Officer Andy Grocholski
The new team was made possible with a $5,000 donation to the Flint Police Foundation from Sonitrol Tri-County, a security company in Grand Blanc. The foundation is a non-profit organization that helps obtain resources for the police department. That donation, combined with other Foundation funds, was used to purchase the dog and the initial training.
Sonitrol and Officer Grocholski recently completed the five-week training program at the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. They are the department’s second K-9 team and will join Officer Boismier and his K-9 partner, Edo. Sgt. Campbell says the goal is to eventually have four K-9 teams – one for each of the department’s four squads.
In cities with high crime rates, K-9 teams are invaluable. “A police dog can detect things humans can’t,” explains Sgt. Campbell. The dogs are trained in four categories: handler protection, suspect tracking, building search, and explosive or narcotic detection. Sonitrol is trained to detect narcotics. Edo is trained to detect bombs and explosive devices. “Their noses are 10,000 times more powerful than the human nose, so it’s a great tool to have!” Sgt. Campbell exclaims. “The dogs are invaluable when it comes to narcotic and bomb detection.”
Officer Grocholski reports that Sonitrol has been working since November 2015, tracking narcotics. And they are together, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Officer Grocholski has always wanted to have a K-9 partner and jumped at the chance when the opportunity became available. “It’s all about building a bond,” he explains, and says they are still working on that. “Sonitrol is a great dog. He’s all play.” The dog is just 19 months old, and it will take about three years for him to fully mature. “He is a tool to protect Andy’s life,” says Sgt. Campbell.
When it comes to providing for the K-9 teams, the community has been very supportive. “They love animals,” says Sgt. Campbell, adding that the dogs cost about $100 per month to maintain. Last summer, The Machine Shop in Flint held a fundraiser to help pay for the second K-9 unit. Food was donated by Doogie’s Dollar Pet Store in Davison, and veterinarian care was provided by Dr. Brian Covert of the Pytel Veterinarian Clinic in Goodrich. Additionally, Michigan Insurance & Financial Services donated equipment to the K-9 unit. “It’s great to have a K-9 team, especially when it comes to tracking a missing child or an Alzheimer’s patient,” says Officer Grocholski. “We are so thankful for the donations and all the people who helped make this happen.”
You Can Help!
K-9 units can typically cost upwards of $10,000 in initial procurement and training, as well as $100 per month for ongoing care. Along with purchasing the dog, costs include the training for both the handler and dog, specialized gear and patrol car outfitting, veterinary medical care, and food.
You can help the City of Flint Police Department reach their goal of having four K-9 units. Donations can be made to the Flint Police Foundation, P.O. Box 13503, Flint, MI 48501, or donate online at flintpolicefnd.net.
Photography by Mike Naddeo