Nome has a new officer on the police force, and with summer approaching, she is shedding like crazy. The new officer is Canine Icon, a 17-month-old, sable-colored, female German Shepherd. Officer Justin Timm is her handler.
Canine Icon is a narcotic detection canine—what some people call a “drug-sniffing dog.”
“Heroin, meth, cocaine. All those types of drugs she can detect, the odors she can detect,” said Timm.
Icon can detect less than a gram of narcotics, even if the drug is cut with other substances like brown sugar or baking soda.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Timm. “If there’s a scent of it, she’ll be able to pick up on it. So it’s not like, ‘Oh, what if they put it in a plastic bag that’s supposed to be airtight or a freezer pack that’s supposed to be airtight?’ Well, we’ve tested on these things, and odor does escape from those things.”
Icon came to Nome about a month ago. Before that, she and Officer Timm were in Alabama, undergoing drug detection training.
Since arriving in Nome, Icon has been adjusting to the area, getting to know the town, the patrol car, the police station, the airport—all the places she’ll be working. Once Officer Timm believes Icon is mentally adjusted to Nome, she will begin searching for narcotics.
Drugs come into Nome in three ways: ships, airplanes, and the postal service. So that is where Icon will be, sniffing cargo, luggage, and mail. She will also assist in drug searches through houses, cars, ATVs, and wherever the police need her to investigate.
Officer Timm explained, “Drugs are up and coming in the entire United States, and to think that Nome is different is…it’s not. There are drugs in Nome. There are drugs everywhere. So this is just one way to put our stamp on the fact that we’re going to try our every effort we can to eliminate the drugs in the community.”
Canine Icon occupies a unique position within the police force. She is a dog, but she is also an employee.
“I fell in love with this dog,” said Timm, petting Icon. “There’s no question about it. But I have to remember she is a part of the police force. She is a tool here. And she is first and foremost an officer.”
Icon has one purpose: to detect narcotics. She is not trained to be aggressive, to bite, or even patrol. She is a friendly puppy, constantly eager to play.
Officer Timm plans to make Icon the mascot of Nome drug prevention, to elevate her to a public figure, and take her into schools. Officer Timm says most of the time—just as a safety net—Icon will be wearing a muzzle while in public, and he encourages people to approach her and get to know their new canine officer.
When approaching Icon, Timm explained, “You don’t have to shy away and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t be near that dog.’ But just walk up slowly, casually start a conversation, and then once she understands that we’re having a conversation, she’ll be comfortable being near you and not feeling threatened or anything.”
Officer Timm calls Icon Nome’s “best tool for drug prevention and drug interception,” but he says the community itself is the “biggest part of the process” for eliminating drugs in Nome.
“There’s 3,500 plus people out there with eyes and ears out there,” Timm said. “Getting up and standing up and saying, ‘I’m not going to let this happen in our community,’ before things get any worse. Being able to call into the police department and say, ‘I know that this is happening,’ and putting it in our hands so that we can then go forth and make sure that we can eliminate drugs here.”
So if you see Icon around, approach Officer Timm, start a conversation, and pretty soon, you’ll be petting Icon.