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CPD's canine unit, foot patrol, working through the subzero cold

January 06, 2014|By Rachel Cromidas, @rachelcromidas | RedEye

The Chicago Police Department's German Shepherds get cold, too.

Monday's subzero temperatures have driven some police officers indoors, but the canine unit is among the units still working outdoors, despite the extreme cold conditions.

"The dogs are just like humans, but we can't not use them today," said Vic Guerrieri, commanding officer of the canine unit. "We have to limit their exposure, because if the handler is getting cold, so is the dog."

Guerrieri said the dogs don't wear any special clothing when outdoors, so handlers have to be particularly careful to make sure their feet are frequently cleaned of salt debris being used to melt the snow, and to make sure they don't run the risk of getting frostbitten. The dogs may work outdoors for 10-15 minutes at a time he said, but they take frequent breaks indoors or in heated police cars. When a job calls for more time, he said, the officers might rotate the dogs in and out of the field every few minutes to keep them warmed up.

The challenge for the police officers across the various units, officials said, is to dress effectively for splitting their time outdoors and in their heated vehicles.

"You have to be prepared to be in and out, and you never know," said Lieutenant Steven Sesso, a CPD spokesman. "I'm not in a suit and tie today. I put my uniform on this morning and all my cold weather stuff, boots, and extra hats and gloves, in case I have to go out in the field."

By midday Monday, Sesso said, police officers were already dealing with several major outdoor incidents, including a crash between a semi-truck and a Metra train in Niles, just on the border of the 16th police district.

Sesso said the number of officers out Monday has been comparable to the number on a typical day, though more might have to take public transit to work than usual because of the challenges the weather presents for some cars.

Officers in the bike patrol unit spent part of Monday indoors, cleaning and repairing bicycles that may be damaged by  the snow, ice, and salt that can clog the gears. Later they will likely be on foot patrol and stationed along the CTA, officials said.

Officer Leslie Padilla said Monday morning was an ideal time to work on the bikes rather than ride them.

"It's too dangerous to be riding in this weather," she said. "So we're doing whatever maintenance needs to be done, because we don't have much time to do this when we're out."

As for the equine unit? Don't expect to see the horses out anytime soon, unless an unusual emergency calls for them, Sesso said.

"They are being treated as if they were human beings," he said. "Since they can't talk to us and tell us how they feel, we wouldn't put them out for safety reason."

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