Metro-East News

Police and their canines compete in Columbia for national certification

Springfield Police Department Officer Paul Carpenter says his canine, Stryker, is the best partner he’s had in more than 25 years on the force.

“I only have five years left before retirement. People asked me, ‘Why are you getting a dog now?’” Carpenter said. “I’ve always loved dogs; that’s why I did this.”

Stryker’s skills as a police dog were put to the test over the weekend during the United States Police Canine Association field trials at Bolm-Schuhkraft Park.

“He’s doing a little better today,” Carpenter said Sunday morning after two days of trials. “It’s a little nerve-racking and he gets excited with all the people watching.”

Stryker, a Belgian Malinois, competed with 20 other dogs in several trials, including criminal apprehension and evidence retrieval. Carpenter shouted commands to Stryker as the dog ran after a “criminal,” a man wearing a bite suit. In one trial, Stryker was supposed to stop before biting, but he didn’t obey Carpenter’s commands.

“Off I go,” Carpenter said as he sprinted after Stryker to pull him off the man.

The event was organized by the Columbia Police Department with leadership from Officer Zack Hopkins. He and his nationally certified canine, Daggo, participated in the trials along with officers from all over Illinois and eastern Missouri.

“We trained for months for 10 minutes of competition,” Hopkins said. “You have to make sure your dog shows up ready to compete.”

The USPCA conducts the certified training in several regions around the country. Their test is the only certified police dog evaluation in the U.S., according to the USPCA website. Certified judges score based on obedience control and criminal apprehension.

The USPCA was established in 1971.