Two four-legged, crime-fighting officers may be better than one.
Winnebago will the only city in Faribault County that will have a K-9 officer on its police force, but the Sheriff’s Department has already put theirs to work.
Deputy Zeus has been on duty with his handler and partner Deputy Brittney Gehrking since last October.
Last July, the City Council gave Police Chief Eric Olson the go-ahead to buy and have a dog trained for an estimated cost of $10,000.
Councilman Scott Robertson says about a week after the council decided to add a “narcotics dog” to the police department, county officials announced they also were getting one.
“They kept it underwraps. They were keeping it quiet and I don’t know why,” says Robertson.
“If they would have told us they were going to have one I don’t know if we would still have gotten a dog . We had no clue the county was doing this.”
In a radio interview, Gehrking says she purchased Zeus as a pet in 2015 but always wanted to have him trained to be a K-9 officer.
Late last June, Gehrking decided to send her dog to a training school for three weeks. And, so far it has paid off for the county.
Zeus has been used in about 20 incidents involving sniffing for drugs during traffic stops to inspecting vehicles and lockers at area schools.
The biggest bust came during a traffic stop Gehrking made on Interstate 90 last December. She noticed a truck with three occupants weaving from lane to lane and riding on the rumble strips.
Gehrking says five suitcases with the odor of marijuana and a baggie were found in the box of the truck. Under the hood there were two backpacks, with one containing about $44,000 in cash.
In convincing the council to have a K-9 officer, Olson said the city could work out mutual aid agreement with other cities and charge a fee.
Since the county has already used Zeus in Wells and Mapleton, it remains to be seen how much revenue Winnebago will be able to generate.
“There’s no turning back now,” says Robertson. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s full steam ahead.”