NEWMAN – As a police Explorer in Modesto nearly a decade ago, Marcus Freeman gravitated toward the department’s K-9 units.
Now, the Newman police officer is on the beat with his own K-9 partner.
Freeman finished training with his K-9 Gizmo in mid-December and was cleared for patrol duty.
He joined the local department in 2017 and joined the Newman Police K-9 Association soon after, helping out at crab feeds and continuing his interest in the program.
When a K-9 position opened in October, Freeman stepped up to apply and was selected. He got Gizmo, a Belgian Malinois, the first week in November and a short time later embarked on the month-long training program.
Freeman said Gizmo is trained as an apprehension K-9 but can also track, search buildings and outdoor areas and afford protection for his handler in the event the officer encounters a combative subject.
In many ways, he explained, the K-9 is a deterrent to situations escalating, as suspects who might be inclined to flee or resist an officer are more likely to comply and surrender rather than engage the dog.
“I think it prevents a lot of things from happening,” Freeman said of having a K-9 partner.
Gizmo is the second K-9 on the department.
Corporal Ashley Williams also has a K-9 unit.
They are on opposite squads, Police Chief Randy Richardson noted, so the arrangement essentially allows a K-9 to be on duty on a daily basis.
The non-profit Newman Police K-9 Association funds the purchase and care of the dogs as well as all required equipment – including the patrol vehicles.
Freeman said he is fully responsible for boarding and caring for Gizmo.
In addition to regular patrol duties, Freeman said, he and Gizmo are required to complete 16 hours of additional training each month and re-certify annually.
And, should Gizmo’s services be required when Freeman is off duty, he would respond to help.
“If someone were to call me and say they needed my dog, I would absolutely jump into it,” he commented.
Freeman said Gizmo is approachable and affectionate with the general public.
“He will nudge up to you and want to be petted,” he explained. “People love to see the dog. They want to know if they can pet him, and I say ‘absolutely’.”
Having responsibility for a K-9 unit involves a commitment and extra work, Freeman acknowledged.
But, he said, “it is great to have a friend with you all the time.”