WATERLOO – The police department’s latest addition to its dog squad recently returned from training.
And she’s back just in time for the beginning of the school year.
Liberty, a year-and-a-half-old black Labrador, specializes in detecting odors from explosives, but when she isn’t sniffing for bombs, she will be stationed at Hoover Middle School with her handler, Officer Dustin Lindaman, who is the school resource officer.
“She doesn’t bite. She will lick you to death. But she finds explosives. That’s her primary mission in life, that and to get treats,” said Lindaman, who is also a bomb disposal technician on the department’s bomb squad.
“She has pretty efficient capabilities of clearing an area, more than men can do it because we can’t smell what she smells,” he said.
While at Hoover, Liberty will help break down barriers between police and youths, Lindaman said.
“It’s part of building relationships in the school with kids,” he said.
Unlike Waterloo Police Department’s three other K-9s, Liberty isn’t trained for patrol duties or handler protection.
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Liberty’s main assignment will be going on calls to look for explosives, be it in the wake of a bomb threat or as a proactive measure, searching a venue in preparation for a special event or a visiting dignitary.
Waterloo Schools Superintendant Jane Lindaman, no relation, said the district is always looking for ways to enhance security.
“When we’re presented with this opportunity from the police department, we support its use as a way to expand our security – especially during large gatherings like football games and other special events where a canine can be utilized,” she said.
Liberty is the only K-9 based in a school in Iowa and one of only eight or nine explosive detection dogs in the state, Dustin Lindaman said.
Liberty is also the department’s first K-9 to come from High Velocity Canine, a New Hartford-based dog training center run by Matt Harris, a retired Black Hawk County sheriff’s deputy, and Tyler Brownell, a former Waterloo police officer.
Liberty was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., and breeders wanted to train her to be a post-traumatic stress companion dog. But she was too excitable for that assignment and not aggressive enough to be a patrol dog, so the bomb detection job was a perfect fit, Dustin Lindaman said.
“It worked really well with her temperament,” he said.
The police department’s K-9 unit is funded entirely from donations and sponsors. Liberty is funded with a grant from Dogs for Law Enforcement, the Guernsey Foundation and the Waterloo Community School District.