Canine to join Grand Valley Police Department

GVPD Officer Kelsey Sietsema and her new partner, a 2-year-old black Labrador Retriever.
GVPD Officer Kelsey Sietsema and her new partner, a 2-year-old black Labrador Retriever.
Image Credit: Kelsey Sietsema

A special time of bonding is taking place in Anniston, Alabama, between a Grand Valley police officer and a new member of the Grand Valley Police Department.

Since late May, Kelsey Sietsema, GVPD canine and community police officer, has been getting to know her new partner, a 2-year-old black Labrador Retriever. The pup, who will use the name Fiona through training, is a K-9 explosives dog. Sietsema and Fiona have started a six-week training program through Vapor Wake Canine company.

Capt. Jeff Stoll said GVPD officers researched and pitched the idea of acquiring an explosives dog last fall. Private funding helped the department move forward with finding a company and beginning the training process. He said the dog is being trained to have advanced capabilities.

“Most people think of a dog going up to a bag or searching through a building,” explained Stoll. “This dog can go beyond that and detect moving odors in the air, track that and identify people, even in crowds.”

Stoll said the dog will be used during gatherings like football games, special events and large-scale student life events. He said the black lab is not an enforcement dog so she will not be used on patrols or to apprehend criminals, or in drug detection.

Police Chief Brandon DeHaan said an explosives K-9 will offer additional safety mitigation measures for GVSU campuses, and also allow for greater connection, engagement and relationships with the Grand Valley community.

“We know labs are family-style dogs that can help break the ice and offer a welcoming appearance,” said DeHaan. “This will afford us an opportunity to share who we are and how we can help the community.”

Black Labrador Retriever.
Resting after a long day of training.
Image Credit: Kelsey Sietsema

The dog will have an on-duty and off-duty vest so members of the community will know when they are free to approach and interact with her. Stoll said, as with all police officers, the dog will receive ongoing training to hone and maintain her skills.  

“Getting an explosives dog identifies with our vision for the future and aligns with the progressive style of our department,” said Stoll.

Training will continue in Alabama through June 25. The lab will live with Sietsema and both are expected to be on campus by mid-July.