BELFAST — Belfast Police Department has a new officer, of sorts, a 1 1/2-year-old black Labrador retriever with the ability to do search and rescues and sniff out narcotics.

Chief Robert Cormier has two goals for bringing Spud, the new dog, into the department, to perform duties related to police matters and to help better connect the community with the department, he said.

Spud is able to perform search and rescues for missing children and adults but he is not a “bite dog,” which means he does not go after fleeing criminals, Cormier said. He is also friendly enough to take into schools and to community events where the public an interact with him.

Labs are known for their good temperament, he said, so the chief specifically chose the breed for patrolling and public interaction. Sometimes K-9s can also help calm people in tense situations. “They just have that easy going personality,” he said.

Officer Jonathan Guba was chosen from a panel of K-9 law enforcement officers from different divisions and departments to be the dog’s handler, Cormier said. All of the candidates were qualified but Guba stood out to the panel the most.

Guba was interested in becoming a K-9 officer to interact better and make more connections in the community, he said. He considers himself a community-oriented officer.

“A K-9 is one of the biggest community tools and community resources there is, especially when people are scared to come up to police officers,” he said. “But when you have a dog, they’re more inclined to walk up and want to introduce themselves … It’s easier for them to come up to law enforcement officers.”

The new K-9 officer moved to the area from Massachusetts to attend Unity College, then settled in Belfast, where he hopes to stay for a while, he said.

It has been a couple of weeks since Spud came to the department from Katalyst Kennels in Connecticut, where they breed dogs for law enforcement work, Cormier said. Spud is settling into Guba’s home where his own dog, a 3-year-old mixed breed named Franklin, and the new police K-9 are becoming friends.

Though Spud came with some training from his breeder, Guba and Spud start an 8-week training together Sept. 19, at which they will learn how to work together, Cormier said. “The really important training is training the dog and the handler together,” he said.

The department already had funding budgeted for a new dog, so it did not have to ask for more money in its budget this year, Cormier said. Spud cost the department about $9,000, which is less than the $12,000 to $14,000 price tags for most police dogs. The department already had a K-9 cruiser from the department’s previous K-9, which Guba will now use with Spud.

Tractor Supply Co. in Belfast has agreed to donate Spud’s food and Little River Veterinary Hospital has agreed to do his annual check-ups for free, Cormier and Guba said.

Dex, the former department dog, was transferred last fall to the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office with his handler and former Belfast Police Officer Travis Spencer.

Adding Spud to the Belfast department means there now are two law enforcement dogs available to the Waldo County area, together offering a wide range of K-9 services, Cormier said. Cormier’s department and the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office will still work together on certain situations, pooling their K-9 services as needed.

Cormier thinks adding Spud to his department will result in more community engagement and the dog will attend community events where the public will have the chance to meet him, he said. He encourages anybody who wants to meet Spud to come to the department while Guba is on duty.

“I think it’s a home run for the Belfast Police Department,” Cormier said. “We have a great handler and a great dog. I know all my officers are excited and I think the community is going to be excited, too. And what’s great about this K-9 program and Spud and Officer Guba, he’s going to be at a lot of community events with Spud. Every one’s going to get to know him, he’s going to feel like a part of the community and he’s very loveable.”