By Denise Dick
A new officer is joining the Youngstown State University Police Department.
He’s a little shorter than his fellow officers, but he makes up for his lack of stature with a great sense of smell.
YSU is one of three state universities that will get an explosive-detection dog through a pilot program of the Ohio Department of Homeland Security.
“We’re blessed to have this opportunity,” said police Chief John Beshara. “Bomb threats happen throughout the country, and it’s a great asset to have in this area.”
Bowling Green State University and Ohio State University are the other universities that will get the dogs. Capt. Jeffrey Dickey, chief of operations at the Ohio Department of Homeland Security, said the universities were chosen based on geography and whether other explosive-detection dogs are in the area.
“We pick up the purchase of the canine [and] the vet bills, and we’re paying for the other equipment that the departments have to get,” he said. “They’ll keep that animal for the effective working life of the dog. Sometimes that’s five to seven years. Sometimes it’s a little longer, sometimes a little less.”
Training begins Monday in Columbus and lasts five weeks.
“We think it’s a sound investment to put Homeland Security dollars into communities where they can be used,” Dickey said.
Beshara chose Patrolman Mark Mehley to be the dog’s handler.
“Physical fitness was a requirement, and we looked for a good strong background and education — he has a B.A. from YSU,” the chief said. “Mark has a strong knowledge of the university. He worked as a student-security aide with the police department through school. He went through the police academy here. Then, when he graduated from the police academy, he worked as an intermittent police officer and then a patrol officer.
Mehley has a good work history, a lot of knowledge of the campus and is a good communicator, Beshara said.
Mehley hasn’t yet met the dog with which he’ll be partnered, a Belgian malinois.
Beshara said the dog will be useful during big events such as when a political candidate visits campus.
“It’s another tool to make the venue safe,” he said. “Besides, I have to be honest with you, I love dogs.”