WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Police Department has a new officer with a unique set of skills to sniff out crime — its new K9 officer, who will be teamed with a current WPD officer.
The yet-to-be-named Belgian Malinois-German Shepherd mix is currently in training at the Ohio State Highway Patrol Canine Training Facility in Marysville.
The road to obtaining a K9 officer is a long and winding one, said Wilmington Police Chief Ron Cravens — but not nearly as costly as it might have been for the WPD. And city officials have been very supportive of the entire project and process, including Mayor John Stanforth and Safety/Service Director Brian Shidaker, he said.
The process began about five months ago with rigorous interviews and screening of WPD officers who applied for the position of K9 handler.
From those, Officer Jordan Ianson, a Wilmington native and WHS graduate, was selected.
“Over the past year-and-a-half I have seen the devastation of what narcotics can do to a person and family,” said Ianson. “With the added tool of the K9, I hope to remove more narcotics from the city and help those who are affected by them.”
“This is a big commitment that runs for the life of the dog,” said Cravens. “Jordan has taken on that task and the responsibility” — which will include 24/7 availability.
Thanks to generous funding from the Matt Haverkamp Foundation, the WPD did not have to fork over a penny of the approximately $10,000 cost of obtaining a K9.
The foundation was established by his parents in 2005 in remembrance of the Golf Manor Police Department K9 handler who died in a car accident in 2005. Its purpose is to continue Haverkamp’s legacy and keep his memory alive by supporting the law enforcement agencies in communities in the Greater Cincinnati area.
“We had email threads, phone calls, interviews and even an hour-and-a-half interview with their board to where they were digging all the way into our policies and procedures, caring for the dog, what the purpose of the dog would be … it was just a really thorough background check.
“It was a great partnership,” Cravens added. “They really stepped up to the plate. That’s their commitment.”
Selecting & training
WPD then partnered with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which is training the dog at no cost to the city, as the State Highway Patrol offers free K9 training to its law enforcement partners.
Its $1.4 million-dollar training facility in Marysville features classrooms, office space, dormitories, kennels and a practical training building in one site. The facility is used to train new police dogs and handlers for the Patrol and partner law enforcement agencies, as well as required ongoing maintenance training.
“We went up on Tuesday evening and toured their training facility, spent the night in a dorm, got to learn what the process would be and how they train,” said Cravens.
“We set out Wednesday morning to drive to Vohne Liche Kennels in Indiana, a three-hour drive from Marysville just south of Notre Dame. OSP was there, two of their master handler trainers, the Haverkamp Foundation, and Jordan [Ianson], Sgt. [Ron] Fithen and myself were there with 25 different agencies, from the Warren County Sheriff’s Department to as far away as Mississippi.”
An OSP master handler worked with the WPD, and several dogs were looked at thoroughly, including two Belgian Malinois dogs plus the one they selected.
“After a couple hours of testing out the dogs — how they track, how they bite on sleeves, etc., we went with the Belgian Malinois-German Shepherd mix,” said Cravens. “The one we chose is laid back but very focused on his work.” He added that the dog — which was born in Hungary and has a passport — has also undergone a rigorous physical screening.
Of course, another factor in the choice was that the dog and Officer Ianson quickly bonded. “The dog’s attitude matched Jordan’s attitude; it was a no-brainer.”
Cravens explained that a K9 handler also has to undergo rigorous training, from case law and policies and procedures to proper caring and training for the dog.
On the job
Crime-fighting priorities for the dog will be “narcotics, tracking, search and apprehension,” said Cravens.
The WPD solicited names for the dog on social media, and will soon make a final decision on that. Ianson and the dog will also play a big role in community involvement and communication with the city’s residents.
Cravens said the dog and his handler can be expected to begin their patrol duties in November.