By Sue Botos
The Rocky River Police Division is currently looking for a new officer. While this position does not require good marksmanship or the ability to drive a cruiser, it does call for the skill to chase down a suspect and, above all, a keen sense of smell. Four legs rather than two are also necessary.
Chief Kelly Stillman recently told West Life that the department is searching for another K-9 patrol dog to take the place of Jinx, who retired to civilian life in the spring. For now, 8-year-old Rylo and his partner, patrolman Garth Selong, comprise the K-9 unit, which was started by Selong more than eight years ago. Stillman said that since the department began its new 12-hour shift schedule on Sept. 24, Selong and Rylo will work the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift. The new dog and handler will take the night duty.
“There have been several officers who have already (applied),” said Stillman.
As for the cost to an expected tight city budget, Stillman explained that the K-9 unit is not truly a budget item, and that much of the yearly tab of about $2,000 is covered by donations. For example, Mayor Pam Bobst announced at a recent City Council meeting that the latest graduates of the Citizen Police Academy teamed up with other community members to contribute $1,035 to the unit.
“That was something the class really wanted to do,” said Stillman, who was presented with the funds two weeks ago. He credited class member Joan Saxton with spearheading the effort.
Stillman said that the police division will again consult with noted German shepherd breeder and trainer Tom Schmidt, who donated Rylo after identifying the dog as K-9 material at just 10 weeks of age.
Selong had explained earlier that it takes a minimum of 240 hours of training to file for certification as a K-9 police dog, and a total of 390 hours to qualify for patrol duty. Training is ongoing for both dog and handler, and units from neighboring cities often gather for exercises in the Metroparks. The dogs are responsible for drug detection as well as the detainment of suspects, for which they are trained to “bite and hold” rather than attack, as is often depicted on TV shows.
The K-9 unit is also part of the D.A.R.E program, frequently visiting city schools. In addition, the dogs live with their handlers, participating in all parts of family life. Selong said that he has worked with Rylo since the dog was 3 months old. He added that his partner actually grew up with his three children.
“We’re putting out feelers and hope to add a new dog by January of 2013,” said Stillman, adding that the decision also depends on getting the “green light” from Bobst. “This won’t be rubber-stamped,” he said.