Rockville boasts a sister city in Germany and two members of the city’s police department with a German background—and a Czech homeland.
The Rockville City Council on Monday presented Petr Gandalovic, the Czech ambassador to the United States, with a certificate of appreciation in recognition of his embassy’s work with the city’s police K-9 unit.
The relationship includes helping the department to acquire its two K-9 dogs, Boomer and Rocko.
“About 50 percent of the German shepherds that you see in operation in the United States are either directly from or have direct lines to the Czech Republic,” said Cpl. Heath Marshall, one of the city’s two K-9 officers.
“They are strong, intelligent working dogs” Marshall said.
The relationship between city police and the embassy started when employees of the embassy saw a Rockville 11 program on Dickerson and Marshall, said Cpl. Kyle Dickerson, the city's other K-9 officer.
The history of the breeding of the dogs goes back to the totalitarian regime of communist Czechoslovakia, Gandalovic said in accepting the certificate. The dogs were used for “guarding the border, when they were attacking those who sought freedom and wanting to leave the country for the free world,” he said. “It’s obviously no longer needed” as the European Union has “dissolved all borders.
“We now use dogs for the same purpose you do. For attacking the bad people,” Gandalovic said.
Before the fall of the communist Czechoslovakian government in 1989, German shepherds were bred as working dogs, according to background information in the council’s meeting materials culled from online sources.
A single kennel, owned by the Czechoslovakian army’s border patrol, was responsible for their breeding, the materials said.
The border patrol used the dogs to apprehend 20 to 30 people a day as they tried to cross the border, according to the materials.
“While most would give up when confronted, the dogs were often called upon to defend their handlers from those intent on crossing the border at any cost,” the materials said.
City police have participated in Czech embassy events. Marshall and Dickerson showed off what Boomer and Rocko can do at an embassy function on May 7.
In Rockville, the dogs provide “a bridge” to the neighborhoods where the officers work, Dickerson said.
“It gives us a way to talk to the kids in the community,” he said. “It really lets them feel comfortable in talking to us. So it’s been instrumental in getting some information.”
For a closer look at the K-9 unit, click here for a Rockville 11 report.
To view Monday's presentation click here and then click on agenda item No. 7.