Genoa Township Police Chief Steve Gammill asked township trustees to approve spending $15,500 for a new department police dog and handler, as well as canine screening and training, during the trustees’ Feb. 3 meeting,
Gammill said Officer Jason Berner, the department’s dog handler for the past 12 years, is now a school resource officer, and he did not recommend turning Berner’s dog, a Belgian Malinois named Gandolf, over to another handler.
During that meeting, Trustee Frank Dantonio said he would like drug search and tracking numbers a police dog produces. Gammill replied that a dog’s search and drug numbers are not great, but police dogs are needed for officer safety and also are excellent public relations tools.
Last Thursday evening, Gammill invited Westerville police officer Brian Schwartz to the trustees’ meeting to introduce that department’s Belgian Malinois, Fiji.
Schwartz said that Fiji assists in conducting searches of buildings and large areas for hidden criminals, tracking lost or missing persons, article and evidence searches, and narcotics detection. He also said Fiji is involved in many community events and educational initiatives.
“Fiji lives in our house with my family, she is not animal aggressive, and she has good social interaction with school classes,” Schwartz said. “She is a great tool to have for officer safety, and yet I don’t have any trouble taking her anywhere – she’s extremely social and very energetic.”
n Schwartz said that, like in the human workplace with continuing education requirements, he trains with Fiji one day each week, and has a required 40-hour weekend of training each September for training and annual recertification.
Schwartz added that the Belgian Malinois, a breed that originated in Holland as a herding dog, has an eight- to 13-year working life.
Also during last Thursday’s meeting, Gammill announced that Genoa officer Mike Sigman would be the township’s new police dog handler.
In other police business, Gammill reported that he had applied for a $25,000 local government safety capital grant to buy 10 laptop computers for cruisers with a township $7,000 match.
The grant program is funded by the Ohio Development Services Agency, with grant determinations decided by the Local Government Innovation Council.
“The applications are due March 21,” Gammill said. “Then we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Trustees also approved a $13,000 blanket purchase order for police department uniforms, and discussed a change in the township vehicle use policy.
Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.