It’s perhaps unusual to be seated in a room in the police station at 11 p.m. if one is not in danger, but such is the case when the officer to be interviewed works only the night shift.
One can hear Clip before they see him, an American black labrador who bolted into the room, but not before sniffing loudly down the hall. Upon entering he immediately took to sniffing the ground and all furniture (and a purse and camera bag).
“He uses his nose for anything,” said Lieutenant Dustin Waldron, watching his dog smell everything on the ground. “That’s just his nature is to use his nose. He’ll go around looking for crumbs and anything that can interest him.”
Waldron grew up in Freedom, N.Y. in Cattaraugus County, where his family coincidentally bred labradors for his early life.
“I loved it there, it was a great place to grow up,” he said. “There were more cows than people, so not a whole lot going on.”
He accepted a full time position as a sheriff’s deputy in May of 2007 for the county. He worked there for a year and a half before interviewing at the East Aurora Police Department, accepted in October of 2008, and became a lieutenant for the EAPD almost three years ago in fall of 2015.
When he was younger, Waldron had his sights set higher in law enforcement- federal work, perhaps for the FBI, but his mind was soon changed. Waldron came up to East Aurora to help a family friend on the force here do some painting.
“The pitch he made to me when he found out there was an opening on the force,” Waldron said, “was, ‘A lot of police officers get into the line of work to clean up a community or make it safe. There’s just as much honor in keeping a nice place nice.’ And that really spoke to me.”
East Aurora is home for Waldron now, who married an East Aurora resident and will be celebrating his son’s first birthday this weekend.
“East Aurora is a wonderful community, it’s a great place to live and work, and there aren’t a lot of places left like East Aurora in this world if you ask me,” he said. “There’s certainly a lot of honor in keeping East Aurora the great community that it is.”
The position as K9 handler opened up in spring of 2014, while Waldron was still a patrolman. The department’s narcotics German shepherd Zando unexpectedly passed away due to medical complications after eight years of service.
“It was a really terrible thing,” said Waldron of the dog’s passing. “He was fantastic.”
In the fall of 2014, Chief Shane Krieger, who was then a lieutenant, started making contact with the American K-9 Interdiction in Virginia. According to their website, the facility fully trains dogs in tracking/trailing, explosives detection, handler training, patrol operations, and narcotics detection, the latter of which is the job Zando left vacant. (Narcotics are, in a nutshell, illegal drugs, often highly addictive, like cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy.)
Enter Clip, who the Village of East Aurora purchased from the interdiction. Then he was three and a half, and is now seven years old. Clip and Waldron trained under a professional for 80 hours and passed an examination before gaining their certification, and since then are required to maintain 8 hours each month of additional training.
As a team, Waldron and Clip work the night shifts, 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. most days of the week. Clip rides around with Waldron when he patrols every night.
“He’s got a nice little set up in the back of our vehicle,” Waldron joked.
The two are primarily utilized for “traffic stops,” or when a car is pulled over to the side of the road, if there’s reasonable cause or permission for a search of the vehicle. Other than that, there have been some requests in the past for the department to sweep a house in search of narcotics for safety reasons. An example would be if a citizen returns from rehabilitation and their family wanted to ensure there aren’t any drugs in the house, they could ask the department to send in the K-9 unit. They, alongside other K-9 departments in the Western New York area, are sometimes contacted on behalf of school districts to conduct searches in the high schools. They did so recently at East Aurora High School and did not find narcotics.
Clip is also a useful representative for the department.
“I like to say he’s the most popular officer we have here,” Waldron joked. “Everybody loves this dog that comes across him.”
The team will often present in elementary schools, where children take well to Clip’s energy.
“It’s very satisfying taking him into a classroom and having the kids go nuts for him,” said Waldron. “That’s a really cool feeling because the kids really enjoy it.”
Outside of his line of work, Clip enjoys spending time at home- though the Village technically owns the dog, he lives with Waldron and his family in town.
“He’s easy,” said Waldron. “He’s pretty quiet. When Clip isn’t searching for drugs he is very relaxed and low key.”
On the job, Clip is focused and energetic. He explained that other dogs certified in patrol work or apprehension are often more aggressive than the average dog- in their line of work, they have to be. But Clip is not aggressive- more excited.
“When it comes to his job he gets very high strung,” said Waldron. “He kind of goes crazy for it, but not in an aggressive way- he doesn’t have any aggression in him.”
This energy is evident when halfway through the interview, Clip jumped up on Waldron’s lap and licked his face. “I know what he wants,” said Waldron, and pulled a terry cloth towel wrapped in string from one of the many holsters on his belt. Clip immediately tore it to shreds, excitedly hopping around the scraps like any dog with their favorite toy.
“He lives for this,” said Waldron, and explained that after Clip correctly identifies narcotics in a building or a room, he immediately gets his reward toy. It’s a game to the dogs, and it’s exciting for them when they’re rewarded.
“Any drug dog is a good drug dog because of their drive, or bomb dog, or any kind of dog that has a specific specialty,” he said. “What makes them good at it is their drive to do so.”
When asked what challenges he faces on the job, both as a K-9 handler and as a police officer in general, the former request is a challenge in itself.
“Clip is pretty easy,” said the lieutenant. “Identifying one single challenge with him would be hard to say. When we’re working he does what he’s supposed to do when he’s asked to do it.”
On the force as a whole, there has been a shift in mood in recent years and a change in tone at the station.
“There’s more of an attitude against police and a lot of media attention to some pretty negative situations,” he said. “Some of it is just and some of it is unjust, which I think has created more of a divide between law enforcement and the citizens that we’re entrusted to protect.”
Overall, however, Waldron’s main goal and his favorite part of the job is keeping the East Aurora community that he loves as safe as possible.
“We’re a very community-oriented police department,” he said. “Being able to serve the community that you live in and care for is a great honor. Having a part in keeping this place a very nice place is very satisfying.”
East Aurora Advertiser, May 30, 2018 | Hyperlink