Springfield police K-9 unit keeping streets safer - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Springfield police K-9 unit keeping streets safer

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

Flying down the streets of Springfield to a call, Officer Raul Gonzalez knows that his partner has his back.

But his partner is not dressed in uniform.

Kira, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, is the one who stands by him on calls.

"It shortens the amount of time that an officer is out there looking for a suspect because a dog can pick up on that person a lot faster," Gonzalez said.

CBS 3 Springfield rode along in Gonzalez's cruiser as he and Kira responded to calls.

He has been a K-9 officer with the Springfield Police Department for years.

With his partner Kira, calls like one on Monday night, where witnesses reported seeing a man on Goodwin Street holding a gun, are not as scary.

In this case, police were able to safely apprehend the man, who turned out to not have a gun.

But Gonzalez says, in serious situations, K-9's like Kira, who are trained in tactics ranging from finding drugs to chasing down fugitives, can make all the difference.

"If he refuses to come out, then we can send the dog upstairs and apprehend him, depending on the circumstances...but thank god it turned out to be safe and nothing else," he said.

But Gonzalez has been on calls that have not ended like this one.

In April 2011, he responded to a call that could've been his last.

"Sometimes you get luck and guys give up and sometimes they don't. He was the type of guy that wasn't going to give up," Gonzalez said.

He's talking about escaped convict Tamik Kirkland who was hiding in the trunk of a car trying to evade police. And when he popped out, Gonzalez was waiting, and took a bullet to the chest. Fortunately, he was wearing a bullet proof vest.

"You don't want that to happen, you think it won't happen but it does," he said.

He says had he had Kira by his side that day, it could've all been prevented.

"I would've had the dog waiting in the back, we carry our dog's vests all the time, it could've been different. Because we use the dog, we send the dog in to apprehend suspects, we do that all the time, we train for that."

Copyright 2013 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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