Cst. Jason Jaques has a unique crime fighting partner, and his name is Harp.
Since joining the RCMP 10 years ago, Jaques has had his sights set on joining the Police Dog Service (PDS) Unit.
“My dad was a handler, so that was one factor, and I have always enjoyed working with dogs,” he detailed. “I don’t think there’s a better job in the RCMP than what I do now.”
Just over a year ago, that long-sought dream became a reality, and he did it with Harp by his side every step of the way.
“Six months into my RCMP career, I started raising puppies for the PDS and RCMP,” Jaques explained. “What you have to do in order to get in is raise puppies from a few weeks old until they’re a year, year and a half, and then they go to handlers.”
From there, members are accepted into the PDS training program.
For five months, Jaques and Harp trained at the RCMP’s only PDS training centre in Innisfail, before heading to Kamloops, B.C.
The team spent eight months working before being posted in Cold Lake, and are now the detachment’s first PDS Unit.
“This is a brand new position here. We cover Cold Lake and the surrounding areas. We cover Edmonton-east, it’s a fairly big chunk of Alberta,” Jaques noted.
Cold Lake RCMP S/Sgt. Jeremie Landry said, “The PDS position has been an integral part of Cold Lake and Eastern Alberta District’s Crime Reduction Strategy. From offender apprehension to locating missing persons and searching for drugs, this position has proven to be an immense asset to our daily operations. As a result of this new position, we have been able to improve policing services to the residents of Cold Lake and area.”
The City of Cold Lake has absorbed the cost of the position, something Mayor Craig Copeland said they were happy to do.
“The canine program has been a huge addition to the area… They’ve been involved in a lot of cases and it’s pretty exciting. We’ve always wanted to have a dedicated dog here in the community. I think this is a great fit.”
Jaques and Harp have responded to 95 calls since moving to Cold Lake, catching 14 suspects in the immediate area. They have even helped the Cold Lake General Investigation Section with narcotics searches.
Jaques believes having a PDS Unit has been “a huge benefit to the area.”
“It’s definitely beneficial to have a dog. It gives them and everyone a chance to catch (criminals) and deter crime. Hopefully it brings the crime stats down.”
He added, “Any specialty section is very beneficial to general duty. Hopefully by doing larger files it will take some of the load off of them. We’ve done lots of work with GIS by doing narcotics searches, but also anything that’s high risk for them like finding people.”
Having the unit has helped local RCMP search for suspects who have fled either into the bush or other area.
Jaques said if they have a good head start, if it’s dark, or if the officers didn’t see what direction the suspect fled, it can be difficult to catch up.
“(Dogs) can find people whether it’s related to criminal activity or it’s a missing child, or person, as humans we may never find them. They definitely have the skills to find them quicker than us,” he expressed.
The same goes for locating drugs, searching buildings, or finding hidden compartments.
“A dog can search a room or building way faster than a human could,” noted Jaques. “If we search a property, it would take us days.”
After a days work, Harp prefers praise, his ball, or a Kong as a reward.
“He loves his ball. He will do pretty much anything for a Kong or a Chuck It,” Jaques added. “He does it for me, but he also does it for himself too. He has high drive and loves to do it for himself. He loves to do his job. He would work 24/7 if he could.”
The pair have been inseparable since day one. Jaques started training Harp at six-months-old, and has had him by his side ever since.
Jaques joked, “Sometimes I spend more time with him than I have with my family, it really depends on how busy we are.”
They will work together until his retirement, which according to Jaques, is around the age of eight or nine, depending on the dog and their situation.
Handlers then decide whether to keep the dog as a family pet, to retire themselves, or get another dog and remain in the PDS Unit.
For now, Jaques and Harp will continue their work in Cold Lake.
“I would say for our clients and the people who are committing rural crime or event crime in the city, it’s definitely a deterrent, because they know the dog’s now closer and not so far away,” he expressed.