Officer Matt Hardin instructs me to wait in the building while he gets Roscoe out of his police cruiser. It’s easy to spot which one is his because the license plate reads “K-9.” The 90-pound German Shepard bounds out of the car and leaps at the door in excitement, looking happy as can be.
Roscoe, whose jet black coat is interrupted only by the light brown of his paws and legs, is still a puppy at heart, despite being an adult dog at 20 months old and having a professional job.
Roscoe is Oxford’s new K-9 officer. Like most police dogs, he’s responsible for a number of duties, including drug searches, locating missing people, finding evidence and patrol work.
Imported from Holland, Roscoe started his initial training as a puppy at Shallow Creek Kennels. He was then prepared for a 12-week handler course where Hardin worked with him for the last half of that time.
The training process was strenuous. Hardin and Roscoe spent over 40 hours a week working together during their time at Shallow Creek. The two had to learn how to interact with each other. Part of the challenge was Roscoe’s heritage because he only takes commands in Dutch.
“It’s very frustrating at times, but it’s rewarding,” said Hardin. “The emotions kind of travel up and down the leash.”
Despite some of the initial frustration, Hardin and Roscoe live and work together full-time and have built a good rapport. Hardin says Roscoe is good with his wife and two children, and gets along well with the family’s other dog. He’s very much become a part of the family, even begging for extra treats.
Even though he’s settling in well at home, Roscoe still knows he has an important job to do.
“When I get dressed for work and we get in the car, then he knows it’s time for work,” said Hardin.
Roscoe has been on the job for only a little over a month — he officially started on August 8 — but in that time he has already gone on 10 drug searches, an area search and has aided in four narcotics charges.
Roscoe, like Oxford’s previous police dogs, is a dual purpose K-9, meaning he does both drug work and patrol work. Hardin says that many larger agencies, like NYPD, have dogs that only respond for dog calls, but smaller cities like Oxford are more limited in their numbers. So when Hardin responds to regular calls, Roscoe does too.
Roscoe’s most important duty is to sniff out drugs. Hardin believes this makes him a valuable asset to the Oxford Police and community.
While Roscoe does not regularly work with other police officers, he still lights up the office with his sweet personality. It’s clear he’s charmed the entire department.
During my visit to the office, Roscoe bounded around looking for attention from anyone who would give it to him.
“He’s a puppy, you know? He’s playful,” said Chief John Jones. “He seems great around people, or at least he has been around us.”
Jones also says that in contrast to the K-9s Oxford has had in the past, Roscoe seems a bit calmer, at least in the sense that he doesn’t bark as frequently. Jones believes this is because of the way he was trained as puppy.
For Hardin, one of the most rewarding things working with Roscoe is the connection with the community. He says that while many people wouldn’t normally want to approach a police officer, seeing Roscoe in the car can be a conversation starter.
“They’ll see the dog in the car and ask, ‘what kind of dog do you have?’”
Hardin hopes that Roscoe can help people have a more positive image of the police. After all, it is pretty hard to resist those puppy dog eyes.