DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR
BERTRAM — The Bertram Police Department is adding a new officer in February, one with a nose for crime, one might say.
“We’re so fortunate to get this addition,” Bertram Chief J.J. Wilson said. “We had a local businessman and resident step forward with a nice donation to make this happen.”
The newest member, who hits the street in February, brings something to the streets that’s been missing for awhile, and he’s already earned a reputation as a crimefighter at previous departments — even at the tender age of 6.
If you haven’t figured out by now, the newest Bertram officer is a K-9 officer. Bock is a German shepherd-Malamute mix that has a military and law enforcement background.
“We had been looking for a narcotics dog when Brad (Langham) at Pacesetter K9 told us this one was available,” Wilson said.
The only problem was the department didn’t have the $2,000 in its budget for the handler-dog training. That’s when Danny Floyd of DIJ Construction stepped in and donated the funds.
With the money, the department went ahead with the dog project. Chief Wilson chose Sgt. Scott Conner as the K-9 handler.
“Sgt. Conner already is one of our lead officers in drug and narcotics arrests and investigations, so it just made sense,” Wilson said.
Conner will spend two weeks at Pacesetter K9 in Liberty Hill working with Bock under Langham’s eye and instruction. After completing the training, the new team will be on the Bertram streets.
Bock started his career in the military as an explosives-detecting dog, but he has the habit of scratching or digging when he finds something.
“Not exactly a good thing when you’re looking for bombs,” Wilson said. “But he became a great narcotics dog. He doesn’t give false signs. If he starts scratching at something, there’s drugs there.”
After the military, Bock transitioned into law enforcement in San Antonio and then Austin. His latest stop was at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. When his handler there retired, Bock found himself without a job. But with a success rate and work ethic like his, Bock wasn’t out of work long.
“He has a great reputation for finding drugs,” Wilson said.
While it might sound a little much for a department the size of Bertram to have a narcotics dog, Wilson pointed out the town, known as the “Gateway to the Hill Country,” sits right on a route that drug traffickers are using more often to avoid the heavy state, federal and local law enforcement presence on the Interstate 35 corridor. Traffickers have traditionally used that route to move drugs up from the Mexico border to U.S. cities such as Dallas, Chicago and Detroit.
“It’s a risky trip, but the profit is so high that they see it as worth it,” Wilson said.
In an effort to avoid the Interstate 35 area around Austin, Wilson said traffickers are using U.S. 281 and the network of county and state roads to move drugs. This includes running through the Bertram area on Texas 29.
But Bock and Conner won’t limit their work to Bertram.
“This is the only narcotics dog in Burnet County,” Wilson said. “I’ve let all the other chiefs know that if they need (Bock), we’ll help. It’s just another tool in our toolbox.”
Bock will also assist in other areas of law enforcement when needed.
The community seems to like the idea of Bertram getting a narcotics dog. Wilson and Conner introduced Bock to residents and officials during a Jan. 12 council meeting. By the next day, several more residents had stepped up with donations to help with Bock’s food, outfitting a patrol car for the K-9 officer and other needs.
“I think that shows the community is supportive of what we’re doing here,” Wilson said. “That means a lot to me and my officers.”