EATON — On Wednesday, May 12, a special ceremony was held celebrating training completion for the Preble County Sheriff’s newest K-9 officer, Arko, and his handler, Deputy Devin Smith.
“They’re certified and ready to go,” Sheriff Mike Simpson said. “So, we’re celebrating that achievement.”
Arko is a two-year-old Belgian Malinois. He and Smith recently completed their six-week training course with the Southwest Regional Training Group.
Sheriff Simpson said the PCSO reinstated the K-9 program and purchased Arko several weeks ago. It had been several years since the agency lost previous K-9 Britt.
“It’s all about having the resources to make the purchase and keep the program going,” Simpson said. “We were at a point where we could do that and were ready to get a K-9 back on the streets. I think this is going to be a tremendous asset, not only from the narcotics part of this, but these dogs are trained, obviously, in officer protection, article searches — we can search for people. So, it gives us another tool to help us do our jobs better.”
Asset forfeiture and money from the PCSO’s furtherance of justice funds paid for the K-9, according to Simpson.
The Southwest Regional Training Group Inc. is based in Preble County and is in charge of the training program.
“The academy is a good way to get good quality dog candidates for our agencies,” PCSO’s Matt Lunsford said. Southwest Regional Training Group Inc. started 10 years ago after Lunsford was selected to have K-9 Britt. “We started our own group,” Lunsford said. “Eaton had a dog, and we had a dog.”
There was nothing wrong with other groups available, Lunsford noted, “We were just out here in the middle of nowhere. So, we started doing stuff on our own.”
Camden was the third agency to come on board, before the group was joined by Butler County. “Now we have agencies from Eaton, Camden, Butler County, Jackson Center, Shelby County, Logan County, Wapakoneta, Darke County, Dayton Airport and Dayton City Police.”
Reno County in Kansas is also a member. “It was the home county of where we were buying a lot of the dogs,” Lunsford explained, noting the sheriff there was invited to the training and did so. “He lived here for the six weeks,” he said. “So, that’s why the backs of our shirts say Ohio and Kansas.”
Southwest Regional Training Group Inc. doesn’t charge for the K-9 academy. The training involves everything from two written tests, case law review and seven practical field tests for the handlers and their dogs, before they sit for state certification.
Smith has been with the PCSO for six years. He said the K-9 program piqued his interest from the start of his law enforcement career.
“I’m an animal guy, a dog lover,” he said. “I got invited to our Southwest Regional K-9 training group by Matt, when I first started, and I just fell in love. They’re amazing, what they can do. Multiple things, you know — alert on alert on narcotics, they can track a man down for miles at a time, and they’re such an asset to any department.”
According to Smith, Arko is a “dual purpose” K-9. He will alert on narcotics and is trained to track a human being and apprehend.
“Same way with articles; if he’s given the command to search an area for an article, he’ll actually find the owner of that article, and basically lay down next to them — so he does a multitude of things,” Smith added.
According to Smith, since March 15, it has been “a forty-hour work week of training, him and me, learning together.”
Smith thanked Simpson and the PCSO for selecting him to be the K-9 handler. He and Arko officially began service on Thursday, May 13.
An officer and K-9 team from Jackson Center was also recognized for their completion of the training at the May 12 event.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr