The True Story of Sergeant Goosby and His 19 Dogs


Photo

Sgt. Michael Goosby works with dogs at the Los Angeles Police Department’s canine training grounds near the police academy in Elysian Park.

Credit
Jake Michaels for The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — “If they ask you to wear the bite suit, say no.”

Robert Crais, the mass-market crime novelist, had those ominous words of advice as we approached the Los Angeles Police Department’s canine training center one especially dark night last month. “They aren’t snarling werewolf monsters,” he said, clearing his throat. “But they ain’t cocker spaniels, either.”

We were there to meet Sgt. Michael Goosby. As the chief trainer for the K-9 platoon operated by the L.A.P.D.’s Metropolitan Division, Sergeant Goosby is responsible for drilling 19 dogs, mostly Belgian Malinois, and dispatching them at a moment’s notice, sometimes three or four times a night, across this rambling city. Sniffing out drugs and bombs are left to other canine units. His dogs hunt people.

Sergeant Goosby, 47, also has the distinction of being one of the few real people to inspire a primary character in Mr. Crais’s wildly popular detective novels, the latest being “The Promise,” which arrived on Nov. 10. The author’s best-known characters (the unorthodox detective Elvis Cole, for instance, who has appeared in 16 of his 20 novels) tend to spring entirely from his imagination.

“Sometimes you meet someone who just won’t be held back, and that’s kind of Sergeant Goosby,” said Mr. Crais, who started his career as a writer for dramas like “Hill Street Blues” and “Miami Vice.”

The key word being “meet.” There are Sergeant Goosbys — forces of nature in their professions, with fascinating back stories — hiding in plain sight all over this city. But they don’t just stumble through the Brentwood Country Mart or whichever of-the-moment coffee spot is popular with Hollywood’s screenwriter crowd. For writing to reflect the diversity of real life, writers must at least sometimes, ahem, go experience it.

So there we were. Where was Sergeant Goosby?

Photo

Sgt. Goosby training an LAPD dog in Eylsian Park.

Credit
Jake Michaels for The New York Times

As it turned out, the man Mr. Crais’s readers know as Sgt. Dominick Leland had been called out on a manhunt. On the run near Inglewood was a man suspected of assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon. (After more than three hours, one of Sergeant Goosby’s dogs found the man hiding under a house.) Over the next two weeks, three more meetings were scheduled and scrapped, for similar reasons.

With Mr. Crais now on a book tour, I made one final solo attempt Monday. (Important tip: To find the canine training grounds, next to the Los Angeles Police Academy in the ravines behind Dodger Stadium, do not rely on your iPhone’s mapping app. Mine had me ignoring a “Do Not Enter: Police Only” sign, descending an extremely steep dirt road and ending up on the academy’s firing range. No lie.)

Sergeant Goosby, who typically works a 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift, was standing next to his white S.U.V. It was a chilly day, so he was wearing a black fleece jacket with the collar popped and his unit’s motto stitched on the front: “You can run, but you can’t hide.” Grizzled but not grouchy, with intense olive-colored eyes, Sergeant Goosby answered my first question — why dogs? — by quoting Ernest Hemingway.

Continue reading the main story

“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter,” he said. He laughed and scratched his belly. “It’s the thrill of the hunt, man. To hunt for someone who thinks they might still get away? That’s adrenaline.”

I was surprised his answer didn’t involve a love of animals. L.A.P.D. handlers take their dogs almost everywhere, transporting them in custom-built kennels in the back of their cars and caring for them at their homes. Tyson, a black-flecked police dog sleeping in a cruiser next to Sergeant Goosby, looked kind of cuddly as he languidly eavesdropped on our chat, although I certainly didn’t poke my finger into his cage to find out.

But no.

“They don’t sleep in our houses, and they don’t play with our families,” Sergeant Goosby said a bit brusquely. “They exist for one reason: hunting bad guys.”

Mr. Crais found Sergeant Goosby in 2012, when he had already written a healthy portion of “Suspect,” about a military dog, Maggie, who comes back physically and psychologically wounded from a tour in Afghanistan and teams with a similarly damaged police officer in search of a killer.

Photo

The author Robert Crais, who has a primary character in his crime novels inspired by Sergeant Goosby.

Credit
Jake Michaels for The New York Times

Figuring prominently in the story is a strict dog trainer. “I needed more research for that part of the book, and when I came to observe and talk to the canine crew up here, Sergeant Goosby kind of became my babysitter,” Mr. Crais said.

“Suspect” flashed like lightning through the dog-lover community, landing on the New York Times best-seller list. Nina Jacobson, the producer behind “The Hunger Games” film series, is now working to make the book into a movie. “The dogs and the K-9 cops are like soldiers who are super devoted to each other and love each other but are all business when it’s time to work,” Ms. Jacobson wrote in an email, noting that she has personally gone to watch Sergeant Goosby and his trainers in action.

What did Sergeant Goosby think of his biting depiction in “Suspect” and “The Promise,” which is essentially a sequel?

“I could see myself,” he said. “The trainer is a know-it-all and not a touchy-feely, lovey-dovey guy, and that’s me. There are days you will love me. There are days you will hate me. But you will be trained, and trained well. I eat, sleep and breathe this job.”

He did have one complaint, however. “These books, don’t forget, are works of fiction,” he said. “Bob has his trainers feeding dogs bologna treats. We don’t do any of that mushy stuff.” He crossed his arms over his chest in apparent disgust.

Married with three children, Sergeant Goosby has been chief trainer since 2013, but before that he logged 11 years as a dog handler and eight years as a trainer. Over the years he has done gang and narcotics work; he was shot in the left leg in 1991 when a drug arrest in South Los Angeles went bad.

But he wasn’t always able to be a tough guy. He was so baby-faced when he joined the L.A.P.D. in 1989, he was assigned to a juvenile narcotics squad, going undercover at San Pedro High School, “21 Jump Street” style. “Buying dope, catching bad guys” is how he remembers that semester of police work.

Sergeant Goosby, who grew up in South Los Angeles as a son of a locksmith, figures he has personally helped apprehend more than 300 suspects in roughly 2,000 canine searches. The L.A.P.D., which trains its dogs to “find and bark” instead of the more controversial practice “find and bite,” has a particularly strong record with canine apprehension, according to publicly available statistics.

“I’m lucky to have excellent trainers and handlers,” Sergeant Goosby said, walking over to a truck where two dogs, Nico and Taro, were barking inside cages. He knocked on the driver’s window. “This guy here? He’s pure evil,” Sergeant Goosby said of the truck’s human occupant. Jeff Miller, a trainer, stepped out and gave his boss a wary look.

“I’m evil? You’re the one who’s grumpy all the time,” Mr. Miller said.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t change it,” Sergeant Goosby shot back.



Source link

About admin

Check Also

Can Parents ‘Robot-Proof’ Their Child’s Job Future?

But that job is suddenly looking iffy as A.I. gets better at reading scans. A ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *