A new, four-legged “investigator” reported for duty with the London Police Department this week.
Ygor, a 16-month-old Belgian Malinois, came to the city from the Czech Republic by way of Holland. He was hand-picked for the K-9 unit by Gold Shield, a company that selects and trains dogs for law enforcement.
Along with his handler, Officer Mike Combs, Ygor is expected to track fleeing suspects, hunt for missing persons and sniff out contraband and illegal drugs.
“He’s trained to track a disturbance in the ground,” Combs said.
But that will not be all of his duties.
“He will be a valuable public relations tool,” said Chief Glenn Nicol.
The chief is especially fond of the dog’s name which means “warrior of peace.”
“It’s a cool and appropriate name for a law enforcement dog,” Nicol said.
Combs and Ygor are looking forward to visiting local schools in coming months where they will make friends and demonstrate how the dog responds to commands.
Nicol said developing a K-9 unit for the department was a campaign promise made by Mayor Pat Closser. City council went along with the idea and approved money for the project in the 2017 capital budget.
“Gold Shield’s $14,500 bill covered Ygor’s recruitment and 11 weeks of training for both the dog and Combs,” Nicol said.
That training ended Nov. 10 and the pair’s official first day on the job was Tuesday.
As for Combs, he’s wanted to be part of a K-9 unit since joining the force 10 years ago.
“I told (former police chief) Tobin that I wanted to do this,” Combs said.
Nicol said Combs won the job over a number of well-qualified officers who applied to be the dog’s handler.
Being Ygor’s co-worker and handler also means being his best buddy.
When their shift is over, Ygor goes home with Combs to wind down and relax. The dog’s behavior and attitude reflect his surroundings.
“He knows the difference between on-duty and home,” Combs said.
Both officer and canine now patrol London’s streets in a specially outfitted vehicle. Money from the Madison County Prosecutor helped with that bill.
Nicol expressed gratitude to both city council and the county for financial support of his new K-9 unit.
Unfortunately, Ygor’s career probably won’t last as long as that of others on the force.
“Police dogs live a hazardous life. Their service generally runs only seven to eight years,” Combs said.
Jane Beathard is a contributing writer for The Madison Press.