On Saturday, South Simcoe Police welcomed the community to their annual Police Week Open House, in both the North and South Divisions. There were guided tours of the police stations, and an opportunity to meet the officers and check out the equipment used to provide protection in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil on a daily basis.
Police Service Dog Nitro and his handler, Const. Shawn Gwilliam drew big crowds, and plenty of eager questions from the kids.
Nitro, a German Shepherd purchased from Slovakia as a pup, has been part of the Police Service since 2018. PC Gwilliam and his canine partner completed the four month training program with York Regional Police to become certified as a canine unit.
“By the end of that course, we learn to follow human scent,” Gwilliam explained. “It’s very hard work, it’s very dedicated work” – but the only reward Nitro expects or gets is access to his toy ball.
“He has so much drive and so much built-up energy that he will do anything we ask him to do, to get that ball,” the constable said, as Nitro jumped up, trying to snatch his favourite toy from his handler’s grasp.
The current canine unit team has been involved in “a couple of hundred calls so far,” in both Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil, Gwilliam said, providing evidence recovery, and conducting searches, looking for both suspects and missing persons.
“It’s not just about catching people who do bad things,” noted the Constable.
Gwilliam explained that Nitro lives with his family but as a working dog stays outside, in a kennel.
“He doesn’t get to play with other dogs. He just plays with me,” he said, noting that when Nitro retires, that will change. When Nitro hangs up his badge, harness and bullet-proof vest, “he becomes a family dog” and a pet, Gwilliam said.
Nitro’s young fans could purchase a plush ‘Nitro’ dog, complete with South Simcoe flash, for a $20 donation to charity – and the toys quickly sold out.
There were police motorcycles, Seadoos, police cruisers and demonstrations of everything from fingerprinting to the equipment used by the service’s Containment Team (Emergency Response Unit). And with help from policing partners like Crime Stoppers and Innisfil Fire & Rescue, and a sunny day that felt more like summer than spring, the 2022 Open House was a memorable event for the residents who came out.