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Drug dealers have something fierce to fear with the arrival of Officer Speedy, the Sylvania Township Police Department’s rookie canine cop.
Trained in narcotics detection and the location of missing persons, the dual-purpose dog will be used to track drug activity and find fleeing suspects. Speedy embarked on his career on Friday, accompanied by Officer Patrick Charest.
Sylvania Township Police Chief Robert Boehme hopes the dog will send a message to potential criminals that the police department will be proactive against drug use.
“We’re not crime-ridden [in Sylvania], but we’d be naive to think there’s no drugs out here,” said Chief Boehme. “We can’t go in a circle around a car and detect drugs with our nose. The dog is going to assist with that type of thing.”
Speedy is part of Sylvania Township’s first canine unit in many years. His predecessor, Charlie the German shepherd, retired nearly 10 years ago, Chief Boehme said. To finance the canine unit, the department used $20,000 from a law enforcement trust fund partially composed of seized assets from drug-related arrests.
The department spent $14,000 for the canine and for six weeks of handler training at Gold Shield Canine Training, a Columbus facility that trains police dogs. The police department spent an additional $6,000 on equipment, such as special leashes and a car outfitted to accommodate a dog, Chief Boehme said.
Imported from the Czech Republic, Speedy is a 14-month-old Belgian malinois, a breed often used in place of German shepherds for law enforcement. Gold Shield employees selected Speedy from a police-dog center in Holland, where canines from Holland, Germany, and Eastern Europe are prepared for police work.
“We look at 120 dogs and choose the best eight,” said Daniel Bowman, owner of the training center. “We’re looking for a very confident dog, with a sound temperament and an extremely high-hunt drive.”
Speedy spent five weeks of pretraining at the center. By the time his handler arrived, the dog had to be ready to certify for the Ohio state police dog guidelines, Mr. Bowman said.
Officer Charest was selected by Mr. Boehme from a pool of five candidates.
During the 240 hours of training beginning in late April, Officer Charest worked with the dog in realistic settings, searching for drugs and trainers masquerading as criminals in furnished apartments, schools, warehouses, office buildings, and the inner city of Columbus, Mr. Bowman said.
The six-week course covered narcotics detection, tracking, obedience, criminal apprehension, evidence search, building search, and area search. One day is devoted to classroom training, during which the handler learns the psychology of the dog and the legal procedures through which officers may use search and seizure privileges.
“Patrick was outstanding. It couldn’t have been a better match,” Mr. Bowman said. “And that's one of the most difficult parts — trying to match the dog with the handler. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll do an excellent job.”
Speedy and Officer Charest returned to Sylvania on June 7 and began their patrol duties on Friday. Although their time at the Columbus training center is over, the dog-human duo will continue to train for 16 to 24 hours a month, Officer Charest said. In two weeks, dog and master will attend a commercial motor vehicle school, where Speedy will learn to detect narcotics in semitrailer trucks.
“He’s been a great dog, very loyal,” Officer Charest said. “I think we're going to be a great team.”