Naperville’s police dogs trained to handle just about anything
By Bill Bird firstname.lastname@example.org December 22, 2012 7:52PM
Naperville Police Officer Eric Muska and police dog Niko outside the Naperville police headquarters. | Bill Bird~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 24, 2013 6:25AM
How much is that doggie in the squad car worth? Consider:
He brings caches of contraband to light. He reunites lost souls with their frantic loved ones. He literally chases down the bad guys.
And if you’re one of the good guys, he’ll let you scratch him behind his ears.
“He” is this case would be either Sabek or Niko, the two four-footed members of the Naperville Police Department. The male German shepherds serve and protect the citizenry with the same dedication found in their human counterparts.
Sabek, the veteran, has a been a member of the force since January 2005, and is partnered with officer Chris Sherwin. Rookie Niko joined the police ranks last spring, and rides with officer Eric Muska.
The dogs work rotating, 12-hour shifts, according to Sgt. Jason Arres, supervisor of the department’s K-9 unit. They spend 11 hours on city streets and one hour in “canine maintenance,” or training and physical exercise, Arres said.
“One of them is assigned to each night shift, and the majority of the time, one dog works every day,” Arres said. They are rarely on duty simultaneously, although that can and does happen from time to time, he said.
Niko and Sabek play “a real multitude of roles” in the department, Arres said. Their work encompasses everything from tracking and finding missing persons to uncovering evidence at crime scenes to pursuing fleet-footed fugitives to searching buildings where doors that are supposed to be shut tight and locked are unexpectedly found wide open, he said. They also sniff out narcotics being smuggled into or through Naperville, although “sniff” really isn’t really the right verb for what the dogs do. Arres said both Sabek and Niko will instead issue “a K-9 alert” to his respective handler.
Sabek, the “more aggressive” of the two, scratches or paws at a compartment or other area where drugs are hidden, Arres said. Niko, by contrast, sits down and gestures with his head or nose whenever he detects contraband.
Arres said K-9 units are also pressed into service during sporadic “practical exercises” that include the searches of school parking lots and student lockers, as happened recently at Naperville North High School. “More than just the Naperville dogs” are needed during such events, which requires recruitment of additional K-9 units from nearby law enforcement agencies, Arres said.
Sherwin, Sabek, Muska and Niko return the favor when another police agency “calls us to ask us if we have a K-9 working” when their department does not, Arres said. The Naperville teams typically help out in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties, although Arres said they have also worked with Cook County law enforcement agencies “and will continue to assist them as necessary in the future with the various assignments they have.”
And while the dogs are comparatively docile off-duty, they and their handlers are all business while working, as one inebriated resident of Plainfield learned the hard way just over a year ago.
A man on Aug. 21, 2011 taunted Sabek as he sat inside a K-9 squad car parked on a downtown street. The man then opened and quickly slammed one of the car’s doors on Sabek’s snout, injuring his mouth and causing his gums to bleed.
The man was chased, captured and arrested by two police officers. He was later convicted of a charge of teasing, striking or tampering with a police or service animal and made to serve 10 days in a DuPage County work program, placed on a form of probation and fined $255.