Youngstown force hopes to add two K9 trainers
By Joe Gorman
The city police department is looking for a few good men or women to work with the dogs.
They need at least two officers to be members of the department’s K9 Unit, which is down two members.
Lt. Frank Rutherford, who led the unit, recently was promoted from detective sergeant and is now a supervisor on midnight turn. Because of his supervisory duties, he no longer is on the road with his K9 partner.
Patrolman Ronald Jankowski, another member of the unit, is on medical disability and will not be coming back to work.
That leaves two officers who were part of the original team of handlers when the unit was created six years ago, Josh Kelly and Michael Anderson, and their dogs.
Police Chief Rod Foley said the department recently asked officers to express an interest in joining the unit and seven officers have done so.
He said the kind of officer he wants on the unit are ones who show themselves as being proactive. He said the department invests a lot of money in training a dog and they want to make sure the dog is used more than just when someone requests it.
“We’re going to look at officers who show a pattern of being proactive,” Foley said. “That is going to be our major criteria.”
Those who expressed an interest must also stay in shape, and they took part in the department’s voluntary physical-fitness testing earlier this month. Passing that test is a criteria to be on the unit, Foley said.
Foley said the time to express interest for the unit has been cut off, and he hopes someone can be picked when the next group of dogs is available in October.
Being down two dogs now has hurt the department a bit, Foley said. He said in between the Violence Interruption Patrols the department ran last year and this year with other agencies, he used the dog units as a sort of smaller, roving VIP detail that often would be assigned areas where guns and drugs are prevalent.
Those in-house VIP patrols were a success, Foley said, but being down two dogs now makes it hard for the department to run those special details when the extra officers are not available.
“They were like a miniature street-crimes unit,” Foley said, making reference to the former unit that patrolled hot spots of the city on its own.
Foley said he was not sure if he would choose two officers to bring the unit back up to four or perhaps add an additional officer. He said training to be a dog handler takes four to six weeks, and the officer also has to have room for the dog to live with them.
“It’s a big commitment,” Foley said.