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updated: 5/21/2014 9:36 PM

New Naperville K-9 unit already 'phenomenal' at finding drugs

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  • Naperville police officer Grif Lippencott and his partner, Maximus, make up the department's newest K-9 team. They specialize in searching for drugs, following scents to find people and searching areas for evidence.

       Naperville police officer Grif Lippencott and his partner, Maximus, make up the department's newest K-9 team. They specialize in searching for drugs, following scents to find people and searching areas for evidence.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Maximus, a 17-month-old Belgian Malinois/German shepherd mix from the Czech Republic, is the dog half of Naperville's new K-9 team. Maximus works with officer Grif Lippencott to sniff out drugs, follow scents to find missing people and search areas for evidence.

       Maximus, a 17-month-old Belgian Malinois/German shepherd mix from the Czech Republic, is the dog half of Naperville's new K-9 team. Maximus works with officer Grif Lippencott to sniff out drugs, follow scents to find missing people and search areas for evidence.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

 
 

On a good day, Naperville police officer Grif Lippencott's partner will do a lot of sitting.

That's because Maximus, the four-legged member of the city's K-9 unit, tends to sit when he finds drugs.

"A good day is finding dope," Lippencott said. "That's what it's all about."

Lippencott has been working with Maximus, a 17-month-old Belgian Malinois/German shepherd mix from Czechoslovakia, for roughly two weeks.

The duo recently returned from a month of training at Northern Michigan K-9 in Clare, Michigan, where Maximus honed his specialties of drug detection, scent tracking, offender apprehension and searching for evidence, while Lippencott learned to handle the 75-pound dog.

The Naperville unit attended training with four new K-9 handlers in the Aurora Police Department and one from the Kane County Sheriff's office, and the teams plan to meet twice monthly for training refreshers.

"It's a tremendous asset to have on the road to assist with the myriad calls that we face on a nightly basis," Cmdr. Jason Arres said about the new K-9 unit.

If all goes well, Lippencott and Maximus will be a team for at least the next seven years, working as one of three K-9 units in the Naperville force so a drug-sniffing dog can be available at all times. The pair follows officer Chris Sherwin and his K-9, Sabek, who stopped patrolling together in February when Sabek started experiencing health problems and had to be put to rest.

Lippencott, 44, said he and Maximus already have responded to a fight at a downtown bar, an armed robbery at a convenience store and a burglary.

Arres said Maximus tracked the scent of the suspect from the convenience store robbery to an apartment complex. While the suspect had left by the time police arrived and the case remains under investigation, Arres said officers would not have known in which direction to look if not for Maximus' help.

The new K-9 unit also has served a warrant with the SWAT team and searched quite a few vehicles stopped by patrol officers on suspicion of drug possession. Maximus rarely barks, which is a benefit in SWAT scenarios or whenever secrecy is desired.

"He's phenomenal when it comes to that," Lippencott said about Maximus' nose for drugs. "We've done a ton of narcotics searches. That's our bread and butter."

The duo's first night on the streets, working a 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift, Lippencott said he and Maximus went four-for-six in finding illegal substances in the vehicles they searched.

"He's like a rookie police officer," Lippencott said about Maximus. "He knows what he's doing, but when it comes to actually doing it out on the road, it's totally different. And the same thing with me."

Lippencott has served in the Marine Corps Reserve for 26 years and said he has some experience working with dogs in a search capacity. But he's new to partnering with one dog consistently, training him and feeding him and forming a bond.

Maximus lives in a kennel in Lippencott's Naperville yard and dines on high-end salmon and buffalo dog food donated from Dog Patch Pet & Feed.

"He's an athlete," Lippencott said. "So he's got to be taken care of."

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