Hubbard County Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Kritzeck and K-9 “Ace” made their debut at Tuesday’s Night to Unite in Park Rapids.

Hosted by the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management, Night to Unite was held in Heartland Park. Police officers, deputies, firefighters, first responders, ambulance personnel, the mounted posse and air care crew were on hand to showcase equipment, answer questions and interact with the public.

A committee of law enforcement officers and community members raised the money to purchase Ace and related equipment, plus pay for the 10 weeks of training. Costs were estimated at $50,000. To date, about $30,000 has been garnered. Donations can be made to the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office, 301 Court Ave., Park Rapids, MN 56470.

With existing donations, the sheriff’s office was able to purchase Ace. He is 14 months old and hails from Slovakia.

In September, the Kritzeck and Ace will head to the Twin Cities for training.

Two other K-9s and their handlers shared the spotlight. Jet, a 2-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malinois, and Park Rapids Police Sergeant Rob Gilmore demonstrated a canine track.

“This would simulate if he was tracking a felony suspect, maybe a missing person. The dogs are trained to track,” explained explained Hubbard County Sheriff’s Sergeant Dan Kruchowski, who is the handler for K-9 Oakley.

Kruchowski pointed out that Jet’s reward for successfully tracking was a short game of fetch.

K-9s must pass yearly tests. “You have to score a 70 percent in obedience order to certify your dog, so we do continuous training throughout the year. Obedience is the foundation of all our training for K-9 handlers,” Kruchowski said.

Jet performed a quick exhibit of obedience skills.

“Notice how happy the dog is, just waiting for the next command,” Kruchowski said.

K-9s are also used to conduct an article search. “We have evidence that a suspect may throw or try to hide from us on the side of the road or in the grass. It might be a license, gun, knife, shotgun shell or bullets,” he said, and the K-9 is able to find it and indicate its discovery with what’s called “a passive indication,” such as sitting.

Ace’s new job means that Oakley, the county’s award-winning, 10-year-old Belgian Malinois K9 officer, may soon retire.

Oakley and Kruchowski demonstrated a narcotics search of a vehicle at Tuesday’s event.

Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes donned a heavily padded arm sleeve and pretended to be a “bad guy” attacking Kruchowski.

“Watch how the dog’s demeanor changes once it goes from narcotics to the bite work. Right now, Oakley is thinking that Sheriff Aukes is a very tasty treat,” said Kritzeck.

Even though Oakley is a little gray and long in the tooth, he easily captured Aukes with his jaws.

Jail security

Earlier on Tuesday, the Hubbard County Board approved County Sheriff Cory Aukes’ request to purchase three new squad cars. The cost for the necessary equipment, graphics and labor totals $43,029. The vehicles are a 2019 Ford F-150, 2019 Ford F-250 and a 2019 Dodge Charger.

The board also approved upgrades to the jail door security system, accepting the low quote of $40,810 from Reliance Telephone for cameras and the $131,240 bid from Stanley Convergent Security Solutions for processors, computers and touchscreens, software and intercom stations. Marchell Electric will install the necessary wiring, their low quote being $3,098.