Pass Christian Police Department (PCPD) K-9 Officer Kyle Michael, 46, has been interested in law enforcement since he was a child. “As a kid I was fascinated with the cars, lights and sirens,” says Michael. “That fascination planted a seed of interest within me for the field of law enforcement.”
He began his career in law enforcement in 2007 with the Gulfport Police Department (GPD). In 2016 he started with the patrol division of PCPD. “I knew I would fit in with the agency, the public and the officials here. The move suited me, and I applied for the position,” states Michael. Although he enjoyed his duties as part of patrol, there was still more he wanted to learn and experience, particularly with the K-9 division.
“While I was with GPD, I had my first experience working around a K-9 unit,” he said. “This sparked my interest, and I would ask a lotof questions about training and the dog’s behavior. I knew this was something I wanted to do one day.”
When a K-9 position opened within the Pass Christian Police Department, Michael submitted his resume and was selected to begin training at USK9 Unlimited in Abbeville, Louisiana. In May of 2018 Michael was paired with a 2 year old Belgin Malinois named “Mako”.
Michael started K-9 school with Mako that June, and five weeks later the team completed the training course with certificates in criminal apprehension, narcotics and tracking. Since graduating from the program, Michael and Mako continues their training with other K-9 divisions from surrounding agencies once or twice a week.
“Although every law enforcement officer is fully trained in a variety of tasks, each has his or her own particular interests, gifts and affinities,” says Michael.
Michael explained that working with a K-9 carries a different level of responsibility. “We are always self-aware of how we present ourselves, but this increases that awareness- not just for us as officers, but also how we handle the K-9 and represent the agency,” states Michael. “Having the dog also puts you in a greater public eye. We have to be more conscious of decisions we make regarding what the dog can do legally, as well as his capabilities. We also try to be available to other agencies that might need our K-9 resources.”
Michael said taking care of the dog adds another level of responsibilities. “Just as you take care of any other pet or service animal, you have to take care of the K-9 and ensure he’s healthy.” he said. “We have to keep up with his health check-up and shot records, his training records, and keep track of his activity and performance in the field. We also have to be able to read and monitor him in the public. Everyone loves seeing him, but many people don’t realize he’s a working officer and highly trained to do a very important job. To him, work is fun, but it’s still work.” Mako does get plenty of opportunities for a little rest. Michael said it’s important for Mako to have an equal balance between his work and their relationship.”
As handlers, the dog will only be as good as we can make them,” he continued. “Mako feeds off of my energy, so I have to make sure that even if I’m having a bad day, he’s still having fun. He needs a great degree of positive reinforcement, and it’s important he receives that. He gets training but we also spend a lot of time and energy focusing on our bond with each other.”
Although Michael is a new K-9 officer he is looking forward to learning and growing more in the division. “I’m grateful to the administration and my supervisors for trusting me with this opportunity. Mako and I look forward to being able to continue to serve the city for many years to come.”