RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new community policy effort has launched, aimed at making kids feel more comfortable around the Capitol.
The heavy panting of a dog on a mission could be heard throughout the Capitol, as K9 Officer Gunner swept through the building for explosives.
“If we’re doing a search, he knows to check a lot of common areas that the tourists might go through,” Gunner’s handler Officer Sean Chaulklin said.
Gunner has been at Officer Chaulklin’s side for six years. I went on a patrol with them on Wednesday.
In one of the conference rooms, Officer Chaulklin hid a bag with gunpowder in a cabinet. When Gunner found it, he sat still – looking right at Officer Chaulklin.
“Who’s a good boy?” Chaulklin said with a smile, pulling out a toy for Gunner. “Once they find it, they get their toy. So, he comes to work to have fun and to just get his toy.”
While Gunner may be a hyperactive Belgian Malinois who begs to be pet, K9 Officers can be intimidating.
“Capitol Square is a very large area. It’s open to the public,” Capitol Police Spokesperson Joe Macenka said. “In addition to having thousands of employees here, and we want everyone who works here and visits here to be comfortable.”
Macenka says the department wanted to do something to “break down barriers” between their officers and the public. So, they created trading cards of the three K9 Officers. They feature pictures of Gunner, Denis and Lucy with biographies on the back. The 6,000 cards came in this week and cost less than $500.
As he and Gunner wrapped up their patrol, Officer Chaulklin stopped to hand out cards to a group of teenagers visiting the Capitol.
“Did Gunner take a shower?” one child asked.
“Yep, he took one yesterday. He gets a regular bath like us,” Officer Chaulklin said.
Officer Chaulklin says it’s exciting to see the kids’ eyes light up when Gunner walks by. Gunner, getting all of the attention, seems to like it too.
While it’s a simple token from a trip to the Capitol, Officer Chaulklin says an experience with young people could inspire them in the future.
“It might change some kid’s life,” he said. “Who knows, they might want a career in law enforcement. If anything, it helps the bond of being able to come to a police officer.”