Miller and Max to the rescue

Officer Justin Miller '10, left, and Max, right.
Officer Justin Miller '10, left, and Max, right.

The radio belts out, “Dispatch to 255.”

The call from the patrol car cut through the crowd of college students nearby.

Officer Justin Miller ‘10 answered, “255, go ahead.” It was midnight and dispatch described the call as a suspicious car attempting to run a vehicle off the road. He rolled up his windows, turned up his music and sped off to find the car to answer the call.

For the past two years, Miller has been accompanied by K-9 Max, a 7-year-old German Shepherd and Belgian malinois mix, as an officer with the Radford City Police Department.

Miller joined the department six and half years ago, immediately following graduation from the Crater Criminal Justice Academy in Prince George County.

In many situations, law enforcement agencies will cover the academy costs for a newly hired recruit. “I just saw it as another semester of college,” Miller said, who paid for the academy costs himself after receiving his degree in criminal justice at Radford University.

Law enforcement runs in the family – and Miller said he “followed in his father’s footsteps.” While Miller was at Radford University, he interned with Radford City Police Department and worked with animal control. His two passions – law enforcement and animals – make being Max’s handler the perfect job.

Becoming a K-9 officer with the Radford City Police Department is a lengthy, competitive process. Two years ago, two positions opened for K-9 handlers. Miller applied, tested and had a board interview with people from outside the department as well as an internal interview with the chief.

After he got the job, he attended handler training and was certified to have Max as his teammate. It is much more work than being a regular officer, he said.

“It’s a 24-hour thing,” Miller said. “I always have him with me.”

Miller works rotating 12-hour shifts along with his fellow officers. They switch between day and night shifts every four weeks. The constant schedule change and quick turnaround is rough on him and everyone on his shift. “It’s our first night back on nightshift. I didn’t get much sleep this afternoon,” said fellow Radford City Police Officer Michael Mansdoerfer.

Miller, Mansdoerfer and Adam Frost, the Cpl. on the shift, get together for coffee and energy drinks during quiet periods. “It’s coffee time,” says Miller as he rolls down the back windows for Max and hops out. “It’s strategic so we don’t get tired later when it picks up,” Miller explains.

Later that evening, dispatch comes over the radio - there’s a call across town. “You all ready to get going?” Miller asks as he heads to his car.

Miller and Max’s specialty, though, is being on the day shift, which means more traffic stops. Miller’s cubicle at the police department is lined with photographs of illegal drugs and money that Miller and Max took of the streets.

“This is the stuff I love doing,” Miller said as he pointed to his photographs.

Whether Miller and Max are on the day or night shift, though, they are always working to protect Radford’s citizens.

Oct 19, 2017
Alida Siebkan