“A Cops Best Friend”
I was inspired to write this article, when I was on a citizen’s ride along. I observed Officer Tim Pappas and his k-9 “Jaeger” as he meticulously searched for clues during an active investigation after a bank robbery occurred. It caught my attention at that time to the integral and various tasks involved in this line of work. I have interviewed, observed and researched for this article and have thoroughly enjoyed learning about this topic and why the CPD Canine Units motto is “BEST In Nation”.
HISTORY OF THE CANINE PROGRAM
Throughout the world dating back to ancient Roman, Greek and Egyptian times, dogs acted almost like Gods to their masters by playing hero, by showing bravery under fire, saving lives (often by sacrificing their own) and bringing comfort to the injured.
In 1898 according to the legendary story, Patrolman “Big Jim” O’Neil found a stray dog along his walking river beat. He brought the young pup back to the station where he was adopted by the police. He was given the name “Handsome”. It has been told that he eagerly patrolled violent neighborhoods of bars and boarding houses known during the time of “rat row” or the “bottoms”. He was notorious for assisting officers in making hundreds of arrests in chasing down the bad guys. Sadly, he died in 1912. To honor his service the police had him stuffed and placed in a glass case for public display at the Cincinnati Police Historical Museum. (See May’s NANA NEWS for a picture)
In the October 1910 Cincinnati Times Star, I discovered what appears to be the first official steps towards using police dogs to solve mysteries in Cincinnati. This story demonstrates how the community, City administration (Safety Director Small and Mayor Schwab) and police (Chief Jackson ) worked together to improve citizen’s quality of life. It was constable Ivy of Elmwood whom offered his bloodhound to the police department without cost.
The police k-9, due to its intelligence, loyalty, strength, agility, courage and capabilities is a valuable resource utilized to assist local law enforcement. Canines can be instrumental in achieving their objectives and are an integral part to supporting their missions.
Their team is available for assignment 24 – hour per day. The team duties include:
- conducting building searches for hidden offenders
- locating missing persons
- tracking suspects who have fled the scene of a crime ( even in water)
- performing article searches
- detecting narcotics or explosives
- conducting public service canine demonstrations generally at
schools and benevolent organizations
The CPD canine unit consists of 20 handlers and canines. A canine consists of on duty police officers and his or hers assigned department canine dog.
- 8 are used for dual purpose which means patrol and narcotics
- 6 for patrols
- 4 for narcotics
- 2 for explosive detectors
HOW IT ALL WORKS
Captain Russell Neville is the commander of the k-9 Unit along with Lt. Cordova, Sergeant Richter, Head trainer: Officer John Neal and Assistant trainer Officer Donald Meece.
In general the price to purchase a canine dog varies, but usually exceeds $7,000 per dog. The dogs go through extensive training daily. Canines are only rewarded with positive reinforcement though vigorous training and treats are never allowed on the job. Police dogs live their daily lives with the handler not as pets but as real working service dogs. Officer Neal says,” this is no 9-5 job because when your work day ends you just begin at home. You can’t leave the k-9 in a locker like a briefcase and call it a day. You gotta feed him, walk him, play with their favorite toy, and comfort him when he is sick. It’s a lot of work but well worth it when you think about this animal is willing and highly trained to put his life on the line for you and to take unnecessary risk so you or other officers don’t have to take them.”
Most k-9 are able to work an average of 8 – 10 years depending on their physical health. After retirement they are given to the handler to keep as their beloved family unit. The canine’s medical needs are provided by the Blue Ash Animal Hospital. The dogs are fed dry food just like your pet at home but some may require a special diet based on their breed. Most of the CPD canines use German Shepard’s but the Belgian Malinois is growing more popular, due to their weight (50-70 lbs.), drive and temperament.
It is a challenging process to become a handler. An applicant must submit their application with approval from their commander; pass a physical fitness test, oral board and home interview. Canine handlers train approximately 12-14 weeks. I have learned not every interested individual may be the right fit for this duty. It truly takes the right individual to devote themselves to this assignment and most importantly to their devoted pal.
There is an increased level of sophistication in the way canines are trained. Most importantly the key to success in any relationship and this job is trust, love, loyalty, consistency, patience and communication. As Officer Neal says, “you must be fun, fair and firm to train these types of dogs. These dogs need to be able to react quickly within any given moment to prevent unnecessary risk.” The canines of CPD are ready, willing and able to go to work. In my observation they actually looked excited to be there and awaiting their next command with consistent leadership. As Officer Neal, further states, “they have incredible sense of smell and can find things we never would be able to find.” An example of this was when I observed a narcotic demonstration on site when Officer Neil hid narcotics in a locker room and the canine searched until all hidden drugs were found. Another example is shown by k-9 tracking and apprehending a suspect. I witnessed within a matter of seconds and without hesitation a whole new appreciation and respect for a working k-9 as he appeared to charge towards me in action.
I was finally able to comprehend after a couple of onsite demonstrations, the inseparable bond officers shared with their dogs while observing at training. In my opinion the officers are truly the guardians of everybody’s rights, maybe even the criminals but the dogs are the warriors that are their trusted, loyal partners, confidants, coaches, teachers and best friend. These dogs are willing to work as hard as you push them and will continue to please you until they have met their handlers’ expectations.
Thank you to the brave handles and canines of this unit and to Officer John Neal for his dedication, experience, knowledge, demonstrations, help and most of all patience with me in writing this article. To all of the men and woman in law enforcement we are grateful and blessed at the local, state and national level for your service and courage.
Here is a beautiful poem that shows the relationship from the dogs perspective.
Trust in me my friend for I am your comrade.
I will protect you with my last breath.
When all others have left you
And the loneliness of the night closes in,
I will be at your side.
Together we will conquer all obstacles
And search out those who might wish harm to others.
All I ask of you is compassion,
The caring touch of your hands.
It is for you that I will selflessly give my life
And spend my nights unrested.
Although our days together
May be marked by the passing of the seasons.
Know that each day at your side is my reward.
My days are measured by
The coming and going of your footsteps.
I anticipate them at the opening of the door.
You are the voice of caring when I am ill.
The voice of authority over me when I’ve done wrong.
Do not chastise me unduly
For I am your right arm,
The sword at your side.
I attempt to do only what you bid of me.
I seek only to please you and remain in your favor.
Together you and I shall experience
A bond only others like you will understand.
When outsiders see us together
Their envy will be measured by their disdain.
I will quietly listen to you
And pass no judgment.
Nor will your spoken words be repeated.
I will remain ever silent,
Ever vigilant, ever loyal.
And when our time together is done
And you move on in the world,
Remember me with kind thoughts and tales.
For a time we were unbeatable,
Nothing passed among us undetected.
If we should ever meet again on another field
I will gladly take up your fight.
I am a Police Working Dog and together
We are GUARDIANS of the NIGHT.