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LU welcomes first Victims Assistance K9

LUPD’s new victim assistance K9 unit, Derrick Boomer Lamar, above with his handler Chad Stegall, LUPD corporal, was unveiled Jan. 14 at Spindletop Gladys City/Boomtown Museum. UP photo by Daniela Contreras.
LUPD’s new victim assistance K9 unit, Derrick Boomer Lamar, above with his handler Chad Stegall, LUPD corporal, was unveiled Jan. 14 at Spindletop Gladys City/Boomtown Museum. UP photo by Daniela Contreras.

The Lamar University Police Department has recruited its first Victim’s Assistance K9 unit, “Officer Derrick Boomer Lamar.” The Catahoula Leopard dog was unveiled, Feb. 14, at a Valentine’s photo shoot at Spindletop Gladys City/Boomtown Museum.

“I’ve been thinking about getting a victim’s assistance K9 for a while now,” Hector Flores, Chief of Operations and Chief of Police, said. “We got to a point this year where we really wanted to start that initiative.”

The police department picked Derrick’s full name to reference the university and the museum.

“We wanted to pick ‘Derrick’ because we’re known here at Boomtown for having an oil derrick.” Flores said. “Boomer, just because we’re Boomtown, and Lamar, because we’re in Lamar.”

As a Victim Assistant K9, Derrick will help calm victims of crimes and assaults, and offer emotional support, Flores said.

“Somebody that has been a victim of an assault, a victim of a violent crime, or depending on the type of crime that makes you feel bad about what happened — the dog is there to help you feel a little bit better about it,” Flores said.

Derrick’s emotional support service is also offered to people facing difficult situations and events, Chad Stegall, LUPD corporal and K9 handler, said.

“We’ll have people that they’ve had something bad happen in their personal life, and they’re just having a really bad day,” Stegall said. “Instead of that person having to look at me in uniform, they can sit there and pet the dog, and take their mind off things.”

Stegall said the eight-month-old pup has been with the police department for three weeks after being picked from the PAWS rescue shelter in Beaumont.

“Chief (Flores) and I had to go to a couple places to pick the dog,” Stegall said. “(At PAWS), I got down on one knee just so I could see the dog’s reactions, and the other dogs weren’t paying any attention to me. (Derrick) took off running and jumped and gave me a big hug.

“They had so many dogs that are so pretty and well behaved. But when he came running to jump and hug me, I was like, ‘OK, that’s the one.’”

Stegall said LUPD hired a canine trainer who has been working with Derrick for two weeks. Stegall said the trainer estimates that it can take up to two months for a good dog to be released.

“(The trainer’s) exact words that she told me were, ‘You got to look at it as if I’m training two dogs’— me and the dog, because she trains me on how to train him,” Stegall said. “She comes to the house, and she goes through drills of different things that I have to do, because even though it’s a Victim Assistance K9, you still go through the basic canine training.

“He has to be able to sit, play, and then he has to be able to sit and stay in one spot while I walk away. One of the other things that he has to do is refer to his place, so he has to go to a spot and not move, even in a crowd of people, and he can’t leave until I tell him to leave.”

Stegall walks Derrick around campus to meet the university’s students and faculty. The reactions from the people are really good, he said.

“They love the fact that we now have a K9 dog,” Stegall said. “People will be able, when they’re having a bad day and see Boomer on campus, sit and pet him and relax — enjoy his presence,” Flores said.

Derrick’s LUPD badge will be designated “in training” until he passes his certification test. Stegall said the certification tests his tameness and obedience. After that, Derrick’s badge will change to “Victims Assistance K9.”

“I think he’s almost there,” Flores said. “He still has a training to complete, but once he’s done with that, he should be ready to go.”

The Setzer Student Center, Sheila Umphrey Recreational Sports Center, and Spindletop Gladys City/Boomtown Museum hosted Cardinal View,March 2, where Derrick demonstrated his advancements in training.

“There was a lot of people inside the Setzer Center, and I had him sit down right in the middle of the Setzer Center with people walking all around him, and him not move, not do anything and let people pet him,” Stegall said. “I went 40, 50 feet away and he just sat there, let people love on him, and he never moved.

As far as him progressing, that right there is one of the biggest accomplishments.”

Derrick’s trainer estimates he has four weeks left until he is ready to take the certification test.

“I’m anxious and excited at the same time, because it’s the test he has to pass,” Stegall said. “But we’ve been practicing it all and he’s been doing great.

“He already loves doing what he’s doing. He loves it. He already loves his job.”

Category: News