Elgin police welcome newest patrol officer — a four-footed cop named Colt
By Dave Gathman firstname.lastname@example.org February 23, 2014 8:30PM
Officer Chad Schuttrow and his German shepherd, Colt, pose with a new exhibit in the Elgin Police station lobby celebrating a long line of EPD canine officers and their best friends. | Dave Gathman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 25, 2014 6:10AM
ELGIN — The Elgin Police Department has added a new canine officer, and a new canine.
Human Officer Chad Schuttrow, 32, who joined the department two years ago after serving with the Indiana State Police, now drives around on his 8 p.m.-to-4 a.m. patrol shift with a 21-month-old male German shepherd named Colt caged in the back of his Ford Explorer.
Schuttrow said Colt is trained to do four of the six main jobs that police dogs can do:
Using his fantastic sense of smell (a dog has 220 million scent receptors, versus 5 million in a human nose), he can follow the trail of a fleeing crook or missing person.
He can smell marijuana, cocaine or heroin hidden in a car, giving an officer who has stopped that car legal justification to search the vehicle.
He can search for a missing object — for example, for a stolen item or a gun that a fleeing thief has thrown away, but left his own scent upon, if you have 220 million scent receptors in your nose.
He can protect his handler — Schuttrow — by attacking anyone who attacks Schuttrow. In fact, if Colt is inside the cage in the car and someone is attacking Schuttrow, he can press a panic button and a radio message will cause the SUV’s door to open so Colt can get out and run to his aid.
The new dog is not trained, however, in three other skills some police dogs can do — finding bombs; finding dead bodies; and helping control crowds.
Colt replaces a German shepherd named Keiser,who had worked with veteran canine Officer John Slocum. Police Cmdr. Glenn Theriault said Keiser fell ill with a tumor last year and had been treated by a veterinarian.
“It looked like he was better. But then while he was on duty last July, he had a relapse and died soon afterward.
“These dogs are so tough that they don’t like to show they are suffering,” Theriault said. “This was the first time we had a dog die while still on active duty, much less while he was actually on duty that day.”
As past canines have grown old, they each have been retired, usually being sold for a token price to live out their golden years at the home of the same officer who had worked with them.
The department also has a 9-year-old German drahthaar dog named Gage, who works with Officer Marshall Kite.
Born in Europe
Schuttrow said he has always loved dogs and looks forward to living with Colt 24 hours a day, whether on duty or off.
“We have a 4-year-old Lab at our house who now will basically become my wife’s pet,” he said.
He said Colt actually was born in the Czech Republic, in a kennel that breeds dogs especially suited for police work. Colt then went to the Taps police-dog training school in Grayslake, where he underwent months of basic obedience training, then eight more weeks of training with Schuttrow.
Besides the panic button that can open its door, Schuttrow’s specially equipped Ford Explorer also contains a temperature sensor. If the cage area gets dangerously hot in the summertime while Colt is inside, the sensor automatically opens a window and turns on a fan.
Already, Schuttrow said, Colt’s nose has led to the arrest of a couple of drug possessors. The team also was loaned out to the Buffalo Grove Police Department to search a school for drugs or weapons, and was loaned to the Drug Enforcement Administration to help with a couple of searches.
Schuttrow said he and Colt also once were called to search for a missing person whose family feared he might be suicidal. But even Colt’s mighty nose was unable to pick up the person’s trail.
Colts vs. Bears
Schuttrow said the Czech kennel originally named the dog Zeke. “But I gave him the new name Colt because I’m from Indiana and am an Indianapolis Colts fan,” he said.
Told that that’s how the dog got his name, a Chicago sports fan named Theriault said, “Is that so! I thought he was just named after the Colt firearms company or something. Schuttrow is going to hear about this.”
But at least the department did at one time have a dog named Bear, the commander noted.
Theriault said that when the new dog was being ordered, Elgin leaders asked the training center to come up with a dog that was relatively gentle, so he could be used for demonstrations inside schools.
Theriault said department leaders now are studying the possibility of adding a third dog. “We are evaluating, for example, whether we need a bomb dog. But if a dog is trained to detect explosives, he can’t be trained for these other things. If he were trained to alert when he smells marijuana or heroin, he might alert and we wouldn’t know whether he had smelled a bomb in that location or just some illegal drugs.”
Theriault said the entire Elgin police dog program costs about $10,000 a year, not including veterinary care.