Officer Helios isn't just any ordinary cop


Officer Skip Lemmon plays a round of catch with his new partner, officer Helios. The K-9's favorite toy is a kong.

Born in Germany, Sunnyside's newest police officer is unlike his comrades in many ways.

Orlando vom Haus Kastma, or "Helios," as he is called by Officer Skip Lemmon, will soon be combing the streets in search of that next big arrest.

He will be trained to sniff out drugs and track suspects using his nose.

Helios is the Sunnyside Police Department's K-9, who has for the past couple of months been in training.

"He is what is referred to as a 'green' dog," said Lemmon, who explained both his partner and himself have been in the process of three months of training.

That training is geared toward teaching the duo to work together when on patrol. Helios is learning to track individuals and he is learning "bite" work. That means he will be able to respond quickly in the apprehension of a suspect and he will know when it is safe to let go of the suspect through voice commands given only by Lemmon.

Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder introduced the duo to the Sunnyside City Council in July 2010 and said, "He (Helios) is a friendly K-9 and he is very obedient."

The most intimidating mannerism the dog possesses is the snapping of his jaws.

But, anyone coming in contact with him shouldn't mistake the officer as anything to mess with. The nearly 80-lb. animal early in training exhibited to Lemmon his keen sense of skills.

Lemmon said the pair arrived at the academy and another dog was training in its "bite" work. When this type of training is being done, a person in what is referred to as a "bite suit" acts in an aggressive manner.

Helios, said Lemmon, immediately responded as if he were the dog meant to react. Lemmon opened the door to the vehicle he and his partner were in and Helios ran toward the individual in the "bite suit," ready to take the individual down.

What impressed Lemmon, though, was his partner's quick response when told to release the individual.

After the initial academy training, which the pair is currently attending in Yakima, the partners will have additional "narc" training, or training for narcotics detection.

The intent is to have a well-trained officer, skilled in all manners of law enforcement and in assisting his fellow officers, according to Lemmon.

Once the narc training is complete Lemmon and Helios will be ready to conduct walk-throughs of schools when requested. On traffic stops, Helios will be able to walk around a vehicle and if he detects narcotics, signal his partner. The duo will also be able to conduct walk-throughs at the Sunnyside jail, keeping inmates from possessing drugs.

Lemmon said he is privileged to work with his new partner. He was granted the honor after having responded to an email sent to all Sunnyside officers.

He submitted a proposal and was selected for the job shortly after.

Lemmon traveled to Monroe to see what dogs were available through a particular breeder and trainer.

Helios, according to Lemmon, was the only dog to express interest in his presence.

"He came out and immediately began rubbing my leg." Lemmon admits it was as if his new partner knew the two would become fast friends.

In less than a month, Helios was well-bonded with his partner. Lemmon brought the K-9 home at the beginning of July and he fit right in with the rest of the family.

"He and my Lab are sometimes too good of friends," Lemmon quipped, saying his partner spends a lot of time playing with the family pet.

Helios is a well-behaved dog and companion to Lemmon's two children, as well.

The German Shepherd is a registered sire and understands basic commands in German.

The commands are given to Helios in German, but he is quickly becoming bi-lingual since Lemmon's family is not fluent in German.

In addition to getting a new partner, Lemmon also has a new vehicle to accommodate that partner.

"The only police vehicle he fit in was the jail truck," Lemmon said, stating the new Chevy Tahoe purchased for he and his partner is better suited for their patrol duties.

The duo had to go a few weeks without the vehicle while it was in production, but they were able to hit the streets last month.

Funding for the K-9 unit, according to Radder, is being provided by donations and grants. The city also received a $12,000 injection for the service through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) funds made possible due to efforts made by the Yakima County Sheriff's Office.

In addition, the city has a separate account set aside for funding of the K-9 unit, according to Finance Director Byron Olson. Anyone wanting to make a donation to the account can do so and the funds, he said, are used solely for the purposes of caring for and training Helios.


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