A night in the life of a K-9 cop


Federal Way police’s graveyard shift works in an atmosphere juxtaposed against the lazy days full of naps and fishing observed on the 1960s television series “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Unlike the city of Mayberry, Federal Way has a good share of crime that keeps its nighttime officers on the move. Following is an example of a four-hour period spent with a Federal Way K-9 officer on a recent Friday night.

11 p.m. to midnight:

The police ride-along began around 10:30 p.m. Approximately a half-hour later, K-9 officer Matt Novak pulled over a man who was not wearing his seat belt. Two small children squirmed in the backseat of the car and a woman fidgeted in the passenger seat. The driver explained he was calming his fussing children.

A records check revealed the man had a restraining order against him, stemming from a sexual offense. The woman in the vehicle matched the description of that with the order. Within moments, what started as a traffic stop turned into a court-mandated arrest. From the front seat the woman looked on, holding her head in her hands and appearing close to tears as she watched the man being apprehended by police.

The children cried and stood on the back seat, turning to see the scene unfold. The woman and children were left in a grocery store parking lot to wait for the woman’s mother to drive the family home.

Shortly after departing the traffic stop, an officer requested help near South 288th Street. The van involved was discovered to be stolen after photocopied registration was presented to the officer. At a speed exceeding 80 mph, Novak rushed toward the scene, passing through traffic lights and around vehicles that refused to merge to the right.

More than five officers could be seen with their weapons drawn. They directed the driver to drop his keys and raise his arms above his head. A language barrier prohibited the man from understanding directions and his resistance led to what appeared to be increased alertness and frustration on behalf of the police.

Communication was finally established with a mix of broken Spanish and English spoken by both the driver and the police. The man and a woman in the van were arrested. The man did not appear to know his vehicle was stolen. This was not a typical stolen car call, Novak said.

Midnight to 1 a.m.:

Next, the K-9 officer responded to a call about a seemingly drunk man near The Commons mall. Attempts to gently remove the man, who struggled to remain upright while sitting on the curb, resulted in several profanities and threats directed at the officers. With a smile on his face, he heckled the officers saying, “I want all of your badge numbers” and “you’re in such trouble” before he was placed in the squad car.

Unfazed by the man’s language and attitude, Novak departed from the call to respond to a fight involving a fired weapon. While traveling north on Pacific Highway South, one of the vehicles involved in the incident was spotted. By this time another officer had matched the pace of Novak’s squad car and together the two attempted to pull the vehicle over.

A turn signal blinked, but the driver failed to stop the vehicle. A few blocks passed before it turned right, then slowed, only to turn again and then pull into the Club Palisades Apartment complex.

Watching from the shelter provided by a parked police car, more than eight officers could be seen in the red and blue bathed parking lot giving the driver specific directions over a megaphone. Ignoring orders to roll down the window and throw out the keys, a woman driver slowly opened the door and shouted that the window did not work. She stepped from the vehicle and, upon request, lifted her shirt and coat above her navel, revealing she had no weapons.

The woman was arrested and the man involved in the fight was instructed to step away from the vehicle. With a red laser beam from an officer’s rifle fixed on the man’s back, he too was arrested. Novak was called to respond to another crime.

1 a.m. to 2 a.m.:

At a school, an empty patrol car was parked along the dark street. Lights from the stadium glowed above a fence in the school’s parking lot. Novak removed Fax, his K-9 German shepherd, from the back of the car. After several minutes alone in the vehicle, the police radio could be heard. A vehicle was found with bullet holes and blood marking its exterior. A request to locate the occupant at area hospitals was made.

Novak and another officer returned to their cars about 10 minutes later with two teenage males in custody. The pair had attempted to break into the school, Novak said. The crime is not that uncommon in Federal Way, he said.

No sooner had Novak and Fax gotten back into the car, they were called to an armed robbery at a 7-Eleven on Pacific Highway South. Arriving at the location, teenagers could be seen darting across the highway on their way to the convenience store. Several men pulled up to purchase items from within the store. Discussions with the clerk on duty provided a description of the armed robber.

Again, Fax was put to work. But this time he was unsuccessful in tracking the suspect. The crime scene was too contaminated, Novak said. Too many people had come and gone from the store in the few minutes it took police to get to the location.

2 a.m. to 3 a.m.:

Nearly four hours had passed. Novak’s shift was only halfway completed, but a sufficient peek into the life of a Federal Way K-9 officer had been provided. Though the night seemed chaotic and busy, Novak testified otherwise. It was not much different than any other Friday night in Federal Way, he said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: or (253) 925-5565.

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