Sgt. Dave Davis, with Dowagiac Police Department for 18 years in May, has had a four-legged partner for the last eight.
He learned German commands from a cassette tape to communicate with Cessy, the 10-year-old shepherd from Dusseldorf by way of Rudy Drexler’s School for Dogs in Elkhart, Ind.
Though nearing retirement, when she will be a fulltime pet to the Davis family, including his wife, Beth, a Dowagiac school board member and Cass County sheriff’s detective, Cessy whimpers constantly Oct. 7 while visiting Todd Adkins’ new criminal justice program at Southwestern Michigan College.
“She’s always excited and ready to go,” said Davis, a Dowagiac native who started almost out of high school in 1986 as a volunteer reserve officer with the sheriff’s office in Cassopolis, similar in size to his first town as a patrolman, Butler, Ind., for two years.
At one point he juggled three part-time positions, including as a corrections officer and a patrolman for the former Howard Township department near Niles.
Davis also worked as a Marcellus policeman while finishing his criminal justice degree at Kalamazoo Valley Community College after fulfilling prerequisites at SMC.
Davis left the area for 21 months in Isabella County before a job opened with the 15-officer Dowagiac force.
The former crime scene technician took advantage of Bethel College’s SMC partnership to add his bachelor’s degree.
In fact, a research paper he wrote for Bethel helped make the case for acquiring a canine when Cass County Drug Enforcement Team formed.
Cessy sniffs for five odors — marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
Secondarily, she’s a patrol dog, trained to track suspects or missing children and adults, and to protect Davis.
“The biggest reward I get from the canine is watching her work,” he said, letting Cessy locate a marijuana pipe concealed beneath an overturned wastebasket.
Her “thrill of the hunt” is rewarded with a quick game of tug.
Cessy cost $9,000, plus $2,500 to $3,000 annual “maintenance.”
“She’s a huge investment,” Davis said, “that could pay off big in one drug bust with asset forfeiture. We want to replace her when she retires, but that’s still up in the air.”
A new dog would be assigned to another handler.
In Cessy’s heyday, “She could jump into a truck and pull people out through the window if she wanted. It’s a game. When they’re hanging off your arm, they’re playing tug of war.”
Davis told students, “It’s hard to find people who realize this isn’t just a job 8 to 4, Monday-Friday. My normal work schedule is 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. — 12-hour shifts. There are a lot of nights, weekends and holidays, but don’t let that scare you. It is a career where what you do becomes who you are. There are a lot of positives, like the first time you get to help someone. Probably two of the greatest traits you can have to be a law enforcement officer are humility and compassion.”
Cessy deters drugs, conserves manpower searching buildings and doubles as a tool to reveal that human side of police work.
Like Davis, Adkins grew up in Dowagiac until he was 14.
Adkins attended high school in South Bend, Ind., earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Western Michigan University and a law degree from the University of Iowa with the idea of becoming a prosecutor.
A summer job with the National Rifle Association awakened a passion to teach in Adkins, who earned a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, where he is also pursuing his doctorate.
As a lobbyist, Adkins often spoke on college campuses and found he enjoyed bringing students a clearer understanding of issues.
Guest speakers such as Davis help balance bombardment by criminal justice images Hollywood delivers through movies and CSI television shows.
His three class sections have spun off a weekly hands-on club through which SMC can connect with the community.
“Criminal justice sounds exciting,” Adkins said, “but it’s not just about badges and guns. It’s a broad-based, flexible degree with a whole world under it. Any natural student interest fits somewhere,” from social work to IT, which could lead into electronic surveillance.