Kirkland’s Turner and Hooch: Young K-9 unit patrolling city

Kirkland Police officer Eric Trombley said he called out to the suspect once, twice, even four times to stop running. But the man kept moving, fighting through a steep ravine of blackberry brambles -- and toward a residential neighborhood.

  • Wednesday, June 11, 2008 12:00am
  • News


Kirkland Police officer Eric Trombley said he called out to the suspect once, twice, even four times to stop running. But the man kept moving, fighting through a steep ravine of blackberry brambles — and toward a residential neighborhood.

That’s when Trombley, 32, released the department’s 3-year-old German shepherd Max. In seconds, the police dog had chased down his target and grabbed him by the knee.

“I make sure that they know they’re being tracked by K-9,” Trombley said. “They just always feel they can get away.”

More than partners

Since forming their partnership in February 2007, Trombley and Max have been KPD’s only K-9 unit. The pair demonstrated their relationship last week at a Citizen’s Academy class, going through obedience training, evidence tracking and capture techniques for the class before its graduation.

Max is the KPD’s third dog since it revived the K-9 unit in 1994.

“They’re a tremendous law enforcement tool for us,” Kirkland Police Chief Eric Olsen said. “(K-9s) can search for evidence, help the search for a suspect and they have the ability to track explosives or drugs. They can also be used as an officer safety tool, when faced with a dangerous situation … They are a valuable asset to the police department.”

Trombley, a four-year veteran of the force who is married with two children, is more than close with his partner — when he goes home after work, Max comes along. The pair’s relationship has even drawn the attention of some friends looking for subjects in a documentary. The crew has scheduled regular ride-alongs to capture the life and development of the Kirkland K-9 team (among others).

Most of the show’s details are being kept quiet, but Trombley said a husband and wife crew (who he met through a birthday party) are interested in depicting “the breeding, selection, up to the point where a team like Max and I are formed, a young team just starting out.” He said filming will likely continue throughout the year and air on the Discovery channel, “or something like that.”


Bought by the KPD from an Everett breeder, law enforcement is the only career Max has ever known. He’s now a little over a year into the job and can expect to work well into the next decade. The average service life of a K-9 unit ranges from five to eight years.

Trombley said when he was assigned to Max, his first priority was learning how to safely “detain” targets.

“(In) the vast majority of captures that Max has, there will be very few contacts,” he said.

“Contacts” meaning “bites,” that is.

When his training started, Max was put on a strict obedience and scent-detecting regimen. It’s Max’s nose, more than his mouth, that keeps the two in business.

“When we walk in to a house and they’re cooking beef stew, we recognize the smell of beef stew,” Trombley said. “Max can actually think ‘beef stew’ and he thinks ‘beef,’ ‘carrots,’ ‘potatoes’ … He can break that all down. His nose is that good.”

The average human has five million olfactory (smell) sensors in the nose, compared to 300 million or more in German Shepherds.

The rigorous training is necessary to receive a special certification by the state — one that recognizes “consistency in training methods” and the accuracy of the dog’s nose.

The certification makes everything Max does admissible in court.

Or, as Trombley notes, “a certified expert.”

Contact Kendall Watson at

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