GVPD to welcome explosives dog to team this summer


Courtesy / GVPD. Pictured: Officer Kelsey Sietsema

Adam Trombley

For the first time in the history of the Grand Valley Police Department, the department will be welcoming an officer on four legs. Although the specific name for the furry recruit has not been chosen by the department yet, the lab breed will be coming in as a dog that will be used to check for explosives on our campus, in the buildings, and at special events held by the University. 

“The fact that we are getting a dog is awesome,” said GVPD Capt. Jeffrey Stoll. “I think it’s great for our department, I think it’s great for our community. I think due to the nature of the dog because it’s going to be explosives and not an enforcement dog, it will blend well with the community.”

The idea to get a K-9 officer for the department was brought up early on in 2020. But after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, things had to be put on hold and ultimately stopped for a six or seven-month period. Around Thanksgiving, the department was able to find a donor who offered financial backing in order to help the department get the dog. The dog will be coming from the Vapor Wake Vendor. 

The K-9 will only be used as an explosives dog that will be able to detect certain vapors in a moving environment that are related to explosives. It will not be used on patrols, in the apprehension of criminals or in drug detection.

“The thing that our dog will be able to do even more so, is as patrons are walking through buildings walking towards an event it has enhanced ability to identify explosive vapors associated with people and is able to track that,” said Stoll. 

From a preventative standpoint, Stoll said the dog will be used quite a bit. Stoll says that there are a number of different events that happen without people really thinking about them. Things like football games, interactions with politicians on or around campus, and student life night are just a few examples of events where the K-9 officer may be present. 

In order for the department to be able to get the dog, a handler would have to step forward and be willing to train with the dog and have it become not only a part of the department but a part of their family. For the GVPD, Officer Kelsey Sietsema stepped up to this unique responsibility.

“It’s going to live at home with the handler,” Stoll said. “This is a unique position for officers across the state and across the nation. K-9 officers take on a pretty large responsibility when they chose to have a dog because that dog then is someone who is going to live with them and be integrated into their family and is something that they are committed to for an extended period of time.”

Becoming the handler of a police K-9 is no small task. Sietsema will be traveling to Alabama for a six-week school where she will train extensively with the new dog on commands and other things that are important to the job. Building a partnership is another one of the main goals of this training, as Sietsema will travel back to Michigan and train with the dog following this schooling. 

GVPD relied heavily on information about these types of dogs from the officers on the Michigan State University campus. With this information, the GVPD set policies, goals, and objectives they hope to reach while the dog is a part of the department. 

The dog is expected to be in Michigan in early July to get acquainted with the team and the campus before the new school year begins. One of the new changes brought on by this new opportunity is that one of the police vehicles will be transformed into a K-9 vehicle that will be fully labeled. 

Stoll says that the GVPD is happy to have this opportunity to have the dog come in and be a part of helping keep the security of people and the community infrastructure safe. 

“We want this dog to be a valued member of the community and the intent is to really just maintain the safety of our campus in those detections,” Stoll said. “Everyone loves a good dog, right?”