Officer Jon Reed’s new partner is not even 3 years old, is in violation of the department’s facial hair policy and has a proclivity for chewing. If that’s not bad enough, he drinks and eats from a bowl.
Max, a 2-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malinois, is the Sedona Police Department’s newest K-9 officer. He follows in the pawprints of Dalan and Joker, who both served for many years. He and Reed, a four-year veteran of the SPD, entered the K-9 academy in late October 2017 in Tucson and are now patrolling Sedona together.
“Working the graveyard shift I started noticing common trends of people going house to house and showing signs of drug activity,” Reed said. “I realized how big of a hidden drug problem we have, especially that time of the night. It inspired me to look into [K-9 patrol] even more.
“One of the main deciding factors for me was when I started coming across people who were willing to hide their drugs in their kids’ diapers and formula bottles in order to try and get away with it. That was the biggest push for me. I had never seen that side of Sedona, and I have lived here 35 years.”
Unlike other police partners, Max goes home with Reed every night, which is part of the training and bonding process. While at work, Max must be allowed to exercise every few hours as is the case when they are at home. Reed has two dogs of his own, and while the three canines get along and often play together, Max is kept in a kennel at the house.
Well, most of the time.
“Like with any partnership or close bond, there can be separate anxieties,” he said. “We’re dealing with that right now. I have to get a special kennel that he can’t break out of. He’s broken out of two of them when I have left for half a day. We got home, and he’s sitting on the couch with my other two dogs because he tore the door off the metal kennel.”
The Malinois is becoming increasing more popular with law enforcement agencies because they are faster than most breeds like German Shepherds, and Malinois are lighter and have less health issues than larger dogs, he said.
Max is now fully patrol certified in areas such as bite apprehensions, tracking for a missing individual or a person with a weapon. In the next week or so he’s expected to be fully narcotics certified, meaning the two will be on call 24 hours a day if needed.
“For him, there is no difference between training and real life,” Reed said. “Sniffing a vehicle is sniffing a vehicle for him. All he cares about is when he finds what he’s supposed to he gets his toy.”
Reed noted that Max is the only three-odor [methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine] K-9 in Northern Arizona. Most that are in service now are also trained to sniff out marijuana. With an increase in medical marijuana and if Arizona someday allows recreational use, he said many K-9s are now being trained to focus on just the harder drugs. That’s because once a dog hits on a drug, it stops and the officer has no idea what type of narcotic it’s found.
“We are very excited to have a K-9 team back in business in Sedona,” Chief David McGill said. “Late last year Max was purchased with funds from PANT [Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking] and did well in his initial training with his handler, Jon Reed. They will continue their training for the next several months. Although Max will be focused working in Sedona, the team will be assisting our law enforcement colleagues on occasion throughout the Verde Valley. Officer Reed and Max are already proving to be a great team.”
Reed has the advantage of having Sgt. Stephanie Foley — who along with Dalan was the department’s K-9 team for eight years — just down the hall from him. She stepped down from that detail last year after being promoted to sergeant. Once Foley started testing for that position, Reed said he knew there would be a limited amount of time that she’d be able to hold that rank and be a K-9 officer at the same time. That’s when he started preparing himself to be in line for the K-9 job whether it was going to be one, two or three years.
“It’s a huge resource for me because she has eight years of experience and has been through all the certifications and training,” he said. “She knows what worked for her and what didn’t. She knows where she was lacking in support in the past and is willing to step up and make sure I’m taken care of.”
Foley said she’s excited about the teaming of Reed and Max.
“Officer Reed is highly motivated and Max is a highly driven canine,” she said. “Together, the combination will equal success. There is no time off from work when it comes to having a police K-9 — they live and work with you. There are daily and weekly trainings that are done to keep the team at a high level of performance.”