While on patrol in the city of Roseville, Officer Gregg Cole is also constantly scanning for areas where his K-9 partner, Lance, can stretch his legs.
On a hot morning in June, Cole pulled his patrol SUV into a Roseville park and threw an orange ball deep into a baseball field for his partner. Lance, an 80-pound German shepherd, sniffs out the ball when he loses sight of it. He always brings it back in quick order.
Cole and Lance shot to viral social media fame this summer when a bystander posted a video of them responding to a call at a Roseville IHOP where a man was allegedly threatening patrons and staff. The video shared more than 25,000 times, shows Cole giving commands to the man multiple times before letting Lance loose.
After the man advances on them, Cole releases Lance from his leash and the dog jumps toward the man, biting him. Cole wrestles the man to the ground and Lance releases his bite as other officers rush in to help.
The incident is an example of the tense work that Cole and his K-9 partner are dispatched to as part of their specialized assignment, one Cole, 34, has worked toward for many years.
With a specially trained K-9 in the back seat of his patrol car, Cole and Lance are dispatched to some of the most dangerous calls, he said.
“... You’re going to any call for service involving weapons, people who are combative, things where a dog might be of use,” Cole said.
“It’s a significant amount of more work and responsibility,” he said of being a K-9 officer. “You’re basically … at the front of pretty much every hot call that comes out so people are looking for you to kind of provide guidance on how you want to run things.”
Cole recalled an instance in which he was dispatched to a call where the suspect had a history of resisting law enforcement.
A parolee-at-large had shown up at his family’s apartment armed with a knife, and became “verbally argumentative,” Cole said.
The man had cut off his ankle monitor and had been evading police for weeks. While at the family member’s apartment, he vandalized it and destroyed belongings, he said.
Cole and Lance were dispatched to the call because the man allegedly had fought with officers before, he said.
“He was a very large guy, not somebody you would want to fight with,” Cole said.
It’s the kind of call K-9 units are usually dispatched to because the dogs are used to locate people and discourage them from fleeing.
“(The dogs are) also a very effective deterrent to use of force,” Cole said. “A lot of people are willing to fight law enforcement officers, unfortunately. Not too many people want to fight with a dog.”
Cole and Lance found the man walking through the apartment complex and made announcements that he had a canine and would release him if the man didn’t stop. The man then looked over his shoulder “and checks to see that there really is a dog. Lance starts barking. You can see the wheels turning in his head, he’s thinking about (fleeing), ...he’s got a decent jump on us.”
Cole said the man was steps away from an open space where he could run and perhaps find places to hide, but rather “he ended up dropping everything and complied. We were able to take him into custody.”
Cole, a Sacramento State graduate, is an 11-year law enforcement veteran and has been partnered with Lance for over a year. He began his career in Aspen, Colo. and joined the Roseville Police Department in 2015 where he worked toward being one of four specially assigned K-9 officers. Now, he lives and works with his K-9 partner, feeding him a strict diet, taking him on walks and day trips with his family.
When Lance isn’t working, he spends much of his time in Cole’s backyard playing with two other family dogs. He particularly loves to swim, Cole said, and he even pals around with Cole’s 1-year-old daughter.
“He is very sweet to her,” Cole said. “He likes to lick her face and stuff like that. They’re very cute.”
When working, Cole wears a leather leash across his shoulders that clips at his waist, and keeps a red chew toy in his pocket to keep Lance occupied during early morning briefings.
Cole’s patrol SUV smells strongly of a dog and dog hair clings to the seats. Lance’s name along with a thin blue-line American flag decorates on the inside of the rear door where Lance climbs in and out. Radio communications are sometimes drowned out by Lance’s very loud bark.
Lance is popular in the department, getting plenty of hugs and head scratches from officers and dispatchers as he accompanies Cole through police headquarters.
At a 6 a.m. morning briefing, Cole and Lance even received a handmade card from an elementary school class they had recently visited.
His popularity extends into social media as well where Lance is the star of his own Instagram account featuring photos of him around Roseville landmarks, eating “puppacinos” and posing with a stuffed Easter Bunny. Cole takes all of the photos and manages the account to show the “lighter side” of having a K-9. Lance has more than 5,600 followers on Instagram, more than the profile of the department and the city of Roseville.
Lance hails from a long bloodline of German shepherds imported from Europe, as do many law enforcement K-9s, Cole said. When training, Cole issues commands in German, letting Lance know when to search, stop, and sit.
“Being a K-9 officer is basically like being a regular police officer with the addition of getting to spend your entire shift with your best friend,” Cole said. “So everywhere you get to go, your dog come with you, so that’s a big plus.”