Some people might call Wauwatosa Police Officer Chad Geizler a glutton for punishment.
Geizler regularly volunteers for a duty very few would want, even in the challenging world of law enforcement – playing the fleeing suspect for fellow officer Tim Kastner when Kastner calls for a training session with Wauwatosa police K9 Addy.
Addy is as well-behaved a dog as you're ever likely to meet, and well-tempered to boot. But when Kastner tells Addy to go after someone, you'd better believe that not even Usain Bolt is going to get far.
Addy is trained to pursue, bite and hold on command, among other things. And Geizler has been on the receiving end of that command enough times to know he's not going to win this footrace.
"The first time we did this," Geizler said, "Tim told me, 'Try not to fall down.' I thought, well, he's not that big a dog, shouldn't be a problem.
"When Addy hit me in the shoulder, I went flat on my face."
Geizler wears a thick padded "bite suit" for the duty, but his head and hands are uncovered. It's a measure of his solid trust in Addy that he doesn't fear a possibly disabling injury.
Addy won't go for anyone's throat or face, or take a poor hold on a bunch of fingers. His job is to overtake and detain, get a solid hold and not let go until Kastner tells him to.
In the accompanying video, Kastner set up a "high-risk stop" scenario in which a known dangerous suspect is pulled over, someone who is a risk to flee. Kastner orders the suspect out of his vehicle and then brings out Addy, telling the suspect to stay still.
Geilzer was instructed to comply for a minute, then suddenly make a break for it. The results can be seen.
Training a long-term team
Addy is a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, originally a shepherd breed now used throughout the world in police and security work and in the armed forces. Born and trained in the Netherlands until he was 2 years old, Addy joined the in May 2010, its first K9 officer.
Kastner volunteered to be Addy's handler, which was no light decision on his part. In effect, Addy became his dog, and Kastner is by the same measure Addy's human.
Kastner joined Addy for six weeks of intensive training at Shallow Creek Kennels in Pennsylvania before bringing him back to Wauwatosa. By then, they were no longer separately a police officer and a police dog. They were an inseparable police team.
Only Kastner is trained to handle Addy, and Addy can work properly only under Kastner's specialized commands – as many of which are hand signals as are voiced.
(There is an exception – if Kastner or another officer is threatened or harmed and Kastner is unable to command him, Addy can and will of his own volition go into "officer protection" mode, and woe betide the perpetrator.)
Addy is all work and a very little play
Addy and Kastner share a nuanced body language that others would likely fail to recognize. More than that, they share a trust no one else could hope to match.
So Addy works every shift with Kastner in his specially outfitted patrol car, with climate controls designed to make sure Addy can't overheat if Kastner is out of the car for long.
At the end of their shift, they go home.
"Yes, Addy lives with me," Kastner said. "We don't play, or just do things for fun, per se. I can't let him get to be an overly affectionate dog. He loves to work – he lives for it – so we do things together off-duty that go to his training."
Fortunately, some of that work resembles play enough to entertain both handler and handled. As far as Addy knows, most of what Kastner asks of him is a game – with toy rewards, never food treats.
Addy's job demands being in peak form, which on his frame is 60 lean pounds of almost all muscle.
"He's not big, but his 60 pounds is all business," Kastner said. "He could easily be 80 pounds but less effective. German shepherds are larger, but they're not necessarily more effective."
Addy is a multi-role police dog, trained to do nearly any job Kastner calls for short of booking suspects and writing reports.
He can't interview suspects, exactly, but his nose can.
The nose knows
Besides being a "take-down dog," Addy is an effective "sniffer." He can recognize and locate a wide variety of drugs and other contraband, and beyond that he can seek out any piece of evidence that he can associate with a human's smell.
Addy demonstrated those super-human sniffing talents after . Not far from the PNC bank branch on State Street, a piece of cast-off clothing lay in the gutter on North 68th Street. It did not match the description of anything worn by the suspect, and a couple of officers noticed but ignored it as they fanned out to scour the area.
Even Kastner ignored it. But Addy didn't. He pulled Kastner off the sidewalk in his eagerness, and the rolled-up black jacket he keyed on helped support charging the suspect. It turned out that two separate witnesses in the bank had told police the suspect was wearing a beige or tan jacket. The bank video clearly showed it was black. The dog was right, as usual.
A command you never want to hear
Addy can also, when called upon, blend his two major skill sets, such as when a suspect is hidden or holed-up.
Then Kastner calls out our favorite police command: "Come out, or we will send in the dog, and he will bite you."
Kastner said that most suspects respect that command – and Geizler said that, having heard it himself and experienced the results of failure to comply, he, if called upon, would surrender in a heartbeat.
"I would not want to face the dog," he said. "No way."
Addy has taken down or rousted out about seven or eight perpetrators in his two years of service, with no injuries to the dog.
Kastner said that in a case where a holed-up suspect was known to be armed with a gun – something that hasn't come up yet – Addy would not be sent in alone, but would be part of a tactical response.
There have been many more instances where Addy's mere presence has served.
In one case, a suspect was thought to be hiding in buckthorn underbrush along the Menomonee River Parkway, but police officers weren't entirely sure he was in there at all. Kastner issued the command to surrender: "Come out or...."
The suspect came out, precipitously.
An unbreakable bond
Kastner said that Addy is in his prime and can be expected to serve the Wauwatosa police force for a long time to come – in dog years, at least.
"As long as they are in good shape, police dogs can usually work until they're about 10 years old," Kastner said.
And after that? In about six years, when Addy gets old bones, starts to lose a step, can't keep up with the grind of second-shift work (that's the K9 shift, where the action is) – what do you do with a retired police dog?
Maybe he finally gets to just play and relax with his master.
When the day comes, Kastner gets to keep Addy for life.
Rest in peace, Justis
Wauwatosa K9 handler Kastner said he was well-acquainted with Brown Deer's K9 officer Justis, a dog that had served its department and a number of others for eight years .
Kastner said that every couple of months, area jusidictions with K9 officers would get together for joint trainings, sharing information and training.
The official cause of Justis' death was "gastric torsion" – which Kastner said was an unfortunate physical anomaly of the breeds typically used for police work.
"Some of these dogs, Malinois and German shepherds," – Justis was a Dutch shepherd, closely related – "their physique is such that their stomach sometimes will just literally get turned around backward, then they get bloated, inflamed, infected.
"I check Addy all the time – but it can come on very suddenly."