Springfield police now have two, four-legged officers patrolling the streets — a goal the division has had for more than a year.
After the death of police dog Rambo in early 2013, the Springfield Police Division set out to purchase two police dogs with a $24,000 donation from the Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Organization, Chief Stephen Moody said. That donation paid for the dogs and training for their officer handlers.
Officer Derric Nichols and Gery — a 17-month-old mix of German Shepherd and Belgian Malinios — began patrolling on May 6 after completing a six-week long training program with Gery’s breeder, who specializes in police dogs.
The other Springfield police dog, Spike, and his handler, Officer Kevin Hoying, completed training and began work in May 2013.
Now that both units are on patrol, Moody said the police division has around-the-clock K-9 unit coverage.
The relationship between an officer and a police dog is special, Nichols said, because of the importance the K-9 unit plays in investigations and the bond the team forms while working together.
“It’s a very rewarding job, not just for the things you do, but getting to work with him,” he said. “And it’s good to help out all the other officers, because there’s plenty of times they want a dog and now it’s good to know that I’ll be part of that.”
Police dog teams from across the Miami Valley train together every Wednesday to keep up their skills, Nichols said. The training locations rotate and sometimes take place in Springfield.
These training sessions include drills on drug searches and bites.
In a demonstration for children involved in the Springfield Police Bike Academy on Wednesday, Gery and Spike put their skills to the test. The officers showed the young crowd how the dogs are trained to attack and bite if a suspect is running from police or attacking the officer.
These skills, along with canine senses that a human officer will never possess, are what make Gery and Spike important assets on the police team, Nichols said.
“It makes it a lot safer for our officers … he’ll let us know where a (suspect) could possibly be before we could have any idea where he is at,” he said. “You just watch your dog and watch his actions and he tells you a lot with his actions.”
Nichols and Hoying take their dogs home after their police shifts are over. Away from the police cruisers and uniforms, the dogs are playful and just like any other pet.
“Once we go home, he’s a normal dog,” Nichols said. “That’s what you want to do, you want to give them time to relax and be a normal dog so they enjoy what they’re doing when they work.”