The latest four-legged addition to the Medford Police Department will allow the agency to keep a police dog readily on hand 24 hours a day.
Basco, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, made his debut in law enforcement Friday near Jefferson Elementary School during a training exercise with K-9 units from across the state.
Basco was assigned to newly appointed K-9 Officer Tom Venables, a 31/2;-year Medford police veteran. Venables has been training with Basco for the past four weeks.
"We've come quite a ways," Venables said.
Venables took the dog through the paces of high-risk patrol as the Medford brass watched.
The dog warmed up by fetching his beloved chew toy before moving on to attack maneuvers. Oregon City officer Shaun Davis donned a full-body "bite suit" to play the part of the unfortunate criminal for the test.
Davis' attempts to escape Basco's jaws were short-lived. He managed only a few steps before the dog latched onto the back of his right arm to pull him to the ground.
"He will take hold of any appendage to bring a person down," Venables said.
Medford police currently deploy three tactical patrol dogs that specialize in tracking suspects, searching for evidence such as bullet casings and chasing down bad guys. The department also fields two drug dogs used to sniff out narcotics in hard-to-reach places.
The Belgian Malinois is gaining popularity in law enforcement circles, Venables said. The sleek working dogs are slightly smaller than German shepherds, but are adept at personal protection, making them good fits for police work.
Medford police Sgt. Mark Boone, the agency's K-9 unit supervisor, said Basco will earn his keep this summer when warm weather brings about more bank robberies.
"For a long time we used the dogs primarily at night," Boone said. "It will bolster the city to have a dog readily available during the day shift."
Basco's first day on the job will come in early May after he and Venables finish training.
And even though Basco lives with Venables, the officer made it clear he is not your typical pet.
"He is a tool for law enforcement," Venables said. "He does spend some time in his kennel, but he loves to get in the patrol car and come to work."
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.