Porterdale's newest police officer reported for duty Monday. He's an experienced crime fighter with two years of service at the Varnell Police Department and specializes in drug busts.
He is a dashing blonde who shares hair color with his new partner, Lt. Chad Bowman. He's friendly and affable, patient and smart.
Once you meet him, you can see why Chief Wayne Digby jumped at the opportunity to bring him to the Porterdale Police Department. His impeccable reputation at VPD will surely earn him respect on the streets of Porterdale. He doesn't even care about a paycheck.
Meet Beau. Beau is a 3-year-old golden retriever that specializes in drug searches and seizures. He doesn't have a last name but wears a badge and holds the rank of sergeant.
"He was a lieutenant where he came from, but he's going to have to work his way back up here," Digby said with a grin.
It's easy to understand the department's excitement. The cost for a K-9 dog is well in excess of $4,000, but Beau was donated.
Digby recently attended an education seminar with fellow police chiefs in Duluth when he stumbled upon the opportunity to acquire Beau's services.
"The chief of the Varnell Police Department asked if anyone wanted a drug dog," Digby said. "I immediately told him I'd take it. His dog handler was sent to Iraq, and (VPD) had nobody to promote to it. So in actuality, the city of Varnell gave to the city of Porterdale, a trained, licensed and certified drug dog."
The retriever has been out of work since his handler left and has been living as a company pet for the past several months.
But Beau is no ordinary dog. He is highly trained and a proven asset to a police department. Conversely, it takes a special person to work with a detection dog.
Lt. Bowman is currently undergoing a six-week training course that will certify him as a handler. Beau needs no training as he is already certified. But in order for the PDP to ensure Beau's cases hold up in court, Bowman must be certified as well.
"I was an assistant handler before, but I worked with narcotics in the past," Bowman said. "I could take him out right now and find drugs. We wouldn't have a problem at all. The problem would be in court. My training is to teach me how to work with him, and he needs to get used to me."
During a demonstration, Beau circled the car once, stopped and found a capsule Bowman had stashed in the wheel well of a police cruiser.
It took him less than 30 seconds.
Beau has his own specially outfitted Chevy Suburban he stays in during work hours and will live with Bowman when off-duty.
The addition of the K-9 unit is especially important as Ga. Highway 81, which connects Interstate 20 and Interstate 75, runs through Porterdale and is known as a major throughway for those wishing to by-pass the Atlanta Metro area.
Since his appointment in January, Digby has worked to improve the department's infrastructure. The addition of a drug dog gives the PDP another tool at its disposal.
"In the past, the public has had a negative outlook on Porterdale," Digby said. "We are making changes to bring us out of that and into today's world. We have some new gifted officers and have been able to obtain some new equipment. But I'm excited about our new K-9 unit."
Beau's arrival has not gone unnoticed. Dr. Laura Thomas, who operates the Wellspring Animal Hospital in Covington has jumped aboard and will become Beau's primary veterinarian. Dr. Thomas has donated her services and will be providing his medications and all health services at no charge to the city.
"I think its wonderful Porterdale has him now at their disposable and I'm glad they got him," Thomas said. "He's going to be a great asset. Golden's (retrievers) are very social dogs and they need to be around people. They are working dogs and when you use them as drug dogs - they are using their natural abilities."
Beau's new partner is grateful a fellow member in the community has come forward to lend support.
"The city really appreciates all the help that she (Dr. Thomas) is going to donate - all the medication she's going to donate and the time and effort for our dog," Bowman added. "It's a great blessing to have someone look after the dog."
Beau won't hit the streets for a few more weeks, but that doesn't mean he won't be busy. Bowman and the department work him through simulated drug stops everyday and plan to keep him sharp until the lieutenant obtains his certification.
"I work and train with him constantly," Bowman said after the training demonstration. "He is still learning about me and how I handle him. We're learning together. But he's ready to go."