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Canine Unit History

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The City of Minneapolis started the trial use of canines prior to 1970. Police Chief Gordon Johnson sent two officers, Welton Kopp and Mike Fisher, to Washington, D.C. where they trained with two German shepherd dogs. Welton trained with Mason and Mike with Smokey. Both officers returned with their dogs and convinced the city leadership to invest in a canine program. Minneapolis went along with the help of government financing. Both Welton and Mike recruited 8 handlers for the first class and set out to find dogs for the new venture. Dogs were recruited from the private sector, mainly from German shepherd dog breeders. The class was assembled in 1970 and consisted of 8 teams. The department had chosen from a list of 80 who applied.

Training for the first class was held at the closed U.S. Navy base in south Minneapolis. This turned out to be a fine training facility that was later reactivated and is presently used by the U.S. Air Force. Officers were trained well in all phases of police dog use while using the standards set forth by the United States Police Canine Association. The class duration was 13 weeks and officers covered everything the new teams would need for the street.

All graduated in 1971, using the auditorium at Roosevelt High School in South Minneapolis for the ceremony. The teams then served all precincts across the city through the Tactical Services Division and later through a new unit called the Special Operations Division. Many changes in the assignment of the Canine Unit have been made in Minneapolis since those days.

The original 8 officers chosen for the canine unit consisted of Officers William Lundquist, K9 Sergeant (his name was changed since the breeders had named him Hippie Hit Hat); Mark Jacobson, K9 Rommel; Phil Bishman, K9 Lance; Dave Neibur, K9 Thor; Richard Stahura, K9 Trooper; Dick Morrill, K9 Rex; Roger Fancher, K9 Clancy; and Charles Adams, K9 Lance.

The city built a kennel facility on the city's East Side near the Mississippi River with a large, fenced training grounds suitable for attack, article search and agility exercises. The building had a classroom and 10 dog runs. It was a quality building that served the city for about 15 years, when it was demolished and a new facility built in its place.

Minneapolis opened its grounds to neighboring police departments and offered to train canine teams. St. Paul, MN (our sister city located across the Mississippi River) sent several officers to Minneapolis, where they were trained. After they established a Canine Unit in their department, they too built a kennel and training facility. This facility also serves as a training location for outside communities. Numerous departments from out of state train and receive recognition at yearly competitions.

Article submitted by Officer William Lundquist

Last updated Jul 15, 2014

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