Man and Law Enforcement’s Best Friend
BLM-New Mexico is thrilled to welcome its newest law enforcement officer: “Ranger,” BLM Police K-9.
Ranger Mike Carpenter and his German Shepherd are the newest BLM K-9 team and the first for New Mexico in 20 years. Ranger’s primary mission is handler protection and narcotics detection.
The BLM’s K-9 program began in 1980 in the California Desert District. Over the years, the program has grown more popular, with ten BLM K-9s currently in the field. Most police dogs are imported from breeders in Holland, Germany, and the Czech Republic, countries with high standards for breeding law enforcement dogs. German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois are the most commonly selected breeds for law enforcement because of their unique dispositions and canine traits. These dogs are especially playful and social, have a drive to hunt and chase, and also want to please their handler.
Mike and Ranger have been together since June 2011. “If you didn’t know he was a police dog, you wouldn’t know it,” Mike says. “He’s very social and friendly. But when it’s time to work, he’s completely different.”
In addition to protecting their handler and sniffing out drugs, police dogs are a “force multiplier.” For BLM rangers who often patrol vast, remote areas alone, a trained police dog provides additional protection, especially when encountering groups engaged in illegal or questionable activity. “There’s a safety factor of knowing I have back-up,” Mike explains. “It’s made me much more comfortable.”
During his first week with Ranger, Mike was at a BLM campground when a group of motorcyclists were arguing with the campground host. When Mike approached them, they began to argue with him. The situation became tense, but when Ranger got out of the car, their demeanor quickly changed. “These guys immediately changed their tone from aggressive to ‘Yes, sir.’ and ‘No, sir.’ The situation may have been a lot different without Ranger.”
In addition to helping diffuse potentially dangerous situations, police dogs are helping to raise awareness of the BLM and promote the image of law enforcement. When speaking with the public, having a police dog often shows the human side of law enforcement and allows for friendly, positive interaction that otherwise would not be as likely to occur.
“After getting Ranger, the contacts I have with people in the field have changed completely,” Mike explains. “Of course, part of it is that people know that an officer and a police dog mean business. But also, a lot of people just love dogs. People we talk to ask questions about Ranger and want to play with him, which he loves.”
Mike and Ranger are together each work day, and when his shift ends, Ranger stays with Mike and his wife, plus their Labrador Retriever and Shih Tzu. “Ranger and the lab play together, but the shih tzu pushes Ranger around, but he just ignores him. He gets along great with my wife, but if I leave the room, he’ll follow me. And if I’m out of sight, he’ll whine.”
In addition to the safety and assurance Ranger provides, Mike is enjoying the companionship. “We’re together 24-7. He’s become my best friend.”