- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - It’s hard to determine if his bite is worse than his bark since his mere presence can subdue even the most desperate suspects.

Whatever his tactics, there is no doubt that Magnum, a 95-pound Russian-born, long-haired German shepherd, will be missed by his fellow officers when he retires this month from the Rapid City Police Department.

“It’s hard not to be influenced by him,” Officer Sean Doyle said while glancing at his partner of the past four years. Magnum’s enthusiasm for the job is contagious, he said.

At Doyle’s invitation, the 10-year-old Magnum poked his massive brown and black head through the opening between the cage and the front seat of the K-9 Unit with puppy-like eagerness.

The duo, one of the Rapid City Police Department’s three K-9 units, was a couple hours into a 5:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift earlier this month. As a roving unit, Doyle and Magnum cover miles of city streets, listening to scanner traffic and prepared to assist other officers.

“We’ll go wherever we’re needed,” Doyle said.

Elsewhere in town, a second K-9 unit was on patrol on this “Power B” Monday-through-Friday shift. The third unit works a day shift. But the teams also are on call 24/7. Doyle and Magnum’s best on-call response time was 17 minutes, he said with pride even though he knows he’s not the one they are calling.

“They don’t want me. They want the dog,” Doyle said with a wry grin.

With his imposing stature, Magnum is a “force multiplier” in any confrontation, Doyle explained. Magnum is bigger than his K-9 counterparts - Jackson, a Belgian Malinois, and Xander, a Dutch shepherd.

After 16 years on patrol, Doyle said he has encountered many angry people who feel fed up with life or their situation and respond to officers with a “just shoot me” attitude.

“But I’ve never had somebody say ‘send in the dog,’” Doyle said.

Magnum’s deep-throated bark has prompted many a suspect to give up without a second thought.

“He has a formidable presence. He’s hairy and mean looking. We get a lot of compliance. There’s a lot of attitude changing,” Doyle remarked.

When he arrived in 2006, Magnum was the third dog to join the department.

Like all of the department’s K-9s, Magnum is a dual-purpose dog as his sensitive nose can detect narcotics as easily as suspects who are hiding in buildings or in an open field.

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