City’s new K-9 unit begins patrol

Princeton police officer Jason Cederberg with the department’s new police dog, Skar. Photo provided
Princeton police officer Jason Cederberg with the department’s new police dog, Skar.
Photo provided
Bryan Opskar
Bryan Opskar

The Princeton Police Department’s new K-9 unit became activated on June 25 when Princeton officer Jason Cederberg began taking his K-9 partner Skar out on patrol.
Skar is a nine-month-old German shepherd named in honor of Princeton native Bryan Opskar, who was a U.S. Marine killed while serving in Iraq on July 23, 2005. Cederberg did intensive fundraising to help offset the approximate $60,000 startup cost of the unit.
It was Cederberg’s idea to name the dog in honor of Opskar. Opskar’s mother Betty Opskar said she and her husband Erling are “very pleased” the new police dog was named in memory of Bryan Opskar.
“Anything to remember Bryan,” Betty Opskar said.
Opskar recalled howshe and her husband discussed potential names for the dog with Cederberg. Bryan Opskar’s nickname in high school was Opy (pronounced Auppy), but Betty Opskar didn’t think Opy would be a fitting name for a police dog.
Skar sounds like a “nice, crisp name to call a dog, and a name to choose in memory of Bryan,” Cederberg said.
Return of a K-9 unit in town
Pressing Skar into patrol in Princeton is a revival of the department having a K-9 unit. The department had one about a decade ago with a different dog, and a different handler, officer Eric Minks.
The new dog is a purebred German shepherd out of the central European country of Slovakia. The dark colors on Skar’s neck and head are typical of the German shepherds from that region, according to Cederberg.
Why did Skar, which cost approximately $8,000, come from far off Slovakia?
The “character and blood line are superior. … that is where the military gets its dogs,”  Cederberg said. Performance Kennels, out of Buffalo, gets dogs from Slovakia for police departments and “hand-picks each dog,” Cederberg added.
Cederberg describes Skar as being “very curious and friendly with family and friends,” and “definitely a pleaser.”
Cederberg and Skar recently completed 11 weeks of training for apprehension of criminal suspects. Training took place all over the Twin Cities metro area, with most of it in Brooklyn Park, Cederberg said.
“I’m able to turn the dog on and turn him off,” Cederberg said. “I am able to make him work and shut him off. The dog is able to tell what to do.”
Those tasks include picking up a scent to try to locate either a suspect or a lost person.
The dogs are trained for police work to be at a “level for the safety of our officers and the safety of the public,” Cederberg said. “He is sent to locate a criminal who is not apt to be apprehended without a dog.”
Their bioggest incident to date was shortly after 1 a.m. on June 28 when a report came in of a large group of people outside fighting. Cederberg said that when he pulled up to the scene and the group heard Skar barking, the fighting ceased. Sometimes just the presence of a police dog is a deterrent,he said.
Dogs have an ability to detect scents that is many times more powerful than that of a human, and through the odor that people give off, a dog can sometimes discern the person’s emotions or conditions, including if they are afraid, Cederberg said.
Cederberg and Skar will soon be starting a three to five week round of training for detecting narcotics and other controlled substances.
More about the naming
Cederberg said he wanted to have the new police dog named in honor of a military veteran who had “given the ultimate sacrifice.”
Bryan Opskar’s name would have likely come to mind, as he died the same year that Cederberg was serving as a Marine. Bryan Opskar’s death, in fact, occurred only about three months before Cederberg’s active duty with the Marines was up.
“It’s something special for the (Opskar) family,” Cederberg said.
“It just means a lot to us, for people to remember Bryan,” Betty Opskar said. She said she her husband plan to come from Pelican Rapids to meet Skar.