NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Two new officers are joining the NOPD all the way from Europe. But, first they're going through weeks of rigorous training. They're learning how to save lives by detecting weapons and explosives. And, in our special report "K-9 Communication," you may be surprised to learn they only understand Dutch.
There's Jo. "Jo, he's more fast-paced," said NOPD Canine Trainer Harold Chambliss. And, his partner, Carlos. "Carlos is more methodical, methodical type of dog, he likes to take his time."
They're two of the NOPD's newest recruits. Jo, a two-year-old German Shepherd and Carlos an 18-month-old Belgian Malinois have only been in New Orleans since last month. But, already they're bonding with their new canine handlers.
"To help the handler and the dog expedite their bonding process we do a lot of hikes to the park and these hikes last an hour, sometimes an hour and half," said Chambliss.
That bond is critically important when you consider what Jo and Carlos will be doing.
"Definitely can save lives if they happen to find an object or a suspicious package," said Chambliss.
They'll make sure you're safe at special events and festivals by scoping it out before you even arrive. And, we got a behind the scenes look at how they learn to do that.
During their training, they memorize the scent of numerous explosives, and using their noses to guide the way, they track down a pretend bomb. They sit as soon as they smell it, letting their handler know that's the danger zone.
They're also trained to quickly get out of the way to protect themselves and their handler in the event of a real improvised explosive device or IED.
"Because if that IED goes off we definitely want to be clear from where it's located at," said Chambliss.
They'll also be used at crime scenes to find evidence like bullets, maybe even the murder weapon.
"These dogs have to learn over 20 different odors," said Chambliss.
At another exercise, they practice finding spent shell casings in cinder blocks.
"We call a sit a passive alert," said Chambliss."That passive alert is extremely important because it saves big time lives because we sure don't want our dogs to have an aggressive alert where the dog may paw at it or he may bark at it. Just the barking alone can cause a vibration of the IED itself and cause it to go kaboom."
And, just like the dogs have to learn scents and commands.
"Our new guys, they learn roughly about 25 to 30 different Dutch commands, and they have to learn these Dutch commands to perfection so the dog can understand what they're saying," said Chambliss.
Their new handlers have to learn the dog's language. That's because Jo and Carlos only understand Dutch.
As complicated as their training is, what they're after in the long run is pretty simple.
"They want their toy, their favorite toy that's what they're working on, once they smell that odor the first thing that comes to their mind is their favorite toy, that reward that they're going to get from their handler," said Chambliss. "And, they want Daddy's approval with that praise on top of it, and they'll die for that."
And, just like a child, everyone once in a while they try to outsmart Dad.
"If they feel they can get away with something and get their toy short-cut wise they'll try that," said Chambliss.
And, as long as they keep doing it the right way and are in good health, they have a long career ahead of them. They can stay on the job until they're ready for retirement. And, you'll soon see them hard at work across the city.
"In the Vieux Carre area especially during special events doing their jobs trying to make the Vieux Carre and the French Quarter safer," said Chambliss.
But, if you want to say Hello, you may just have to learn Dutch.
Jo and Carlos have about two weeks left in their training before they graduate. Then,they'll become official NOPD officers. They'll even earn a gold badge.