Fraser K-9 retires as officer receives promotion

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 13, 2015

 Jason Vandervord and Niko take one final photo together to commemorate Fraser’s first-ever K-9 unit.

Jason Vandervord and Niko take one final photo together to commemorate Fraser’s first-ever K-9 unit.

Photo by Nick Mordowanec


FRASER — Niko the dog came from the Netherlands to fight crime with his human counterparts in Fraser.

Little did the dog and one particular officer know that they would develop a relationship that transcended bad guys and traffic stops. Almost a decade later, they are bound for life.

On May 1 at the Fraser Department of Public Safety (DPS), Jason Vandervord was officially sworn in by Fraser Clerk Kathy Kacanowski in front of family members, individuals from the DPS and others from the community.

Vandervord was promoted to sergeant and supervisor, relinquishing duties in the K-9 unit that he held since 2008.

He has a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University in the field of criminal justice and sociology. He graduated from Kalamazoo Community College’s police academy and then started in the police force with a short stint in Grosse Pointe.

In 2008, he was selected as the first dog handler in Fraser’s history.

As part of his promotion efforts, Vandervord had to read about 10 books and pass an oral board exam.

DPS Director George Rouhib joked that it was the first time he had an opportunity to promote someone within the department while retiring a dog at the same time.

In front of Vandervord’s wife, Lisa, and his three children — Joey, Andrew and Lindsay — Rouhib discussed why now is the right time for the long-serving officer to reach another plateau in his career.

“You’ve got one heck of a dad,” Rouhib told Vandervord’s kids. “He’s a good man and a good worker. Jason’s been here, 15 years, and I’ve got to tell you, he’s one of the most consistent officers that I’ve worked with. He’s very aggressive on the road. When there’s trouble, there he is. He’s got the handcuffs out.

“Jason, your hard work paid off. You work hard and you get a reward, and this is that reward. I think you’ll be one heck of an asset to this department as a supervisor.”

After Niko was transported to Michigan from the Netherlands on Nov. 25, 2007, he received five weeks of basic training with an experienced dog handler. Once that training was complete, Niko then attended a five-week K-9 academy at Oakland University, where he graduated in the arts of narcotic detection and tracking.

Rouhib spoke of the numerous accomplishments of the city’s K-9 unit.

Niko earned certifications in several fields: narcotics, tracking, building and article searches, obedience and aggression. During his seven years with the department, Niko responded to 550 calls of service; was involved in 390 narcotics searches and 132 tracks; assisted with 41 search warrants; conducted 29 school sweeps; participated in 16 demonstrations; and helped with 91 felony arrests and 91 misdemeanor arrests. He also recovered more than 22 pounds of narcotics and seized more than $33,000 in cash and 19 vehicles.

“Happy retirement, Niko,” Rouhib said.

Vandervord’s wife of more than 12 years, Lisa, then acknowledged the journey that has come to the present.

“My husband put in a lot of dedication and determination into his studying,” Lisa said. “He even brought his books on our vacation to the beach, and I said, ‘You are a nerd!’

“I’m really proud of him. He’s a great husband and a great father, and it’s amazing for these kids to look up to him, and he’s going to do a great job in this position.”

Vandervord acknowledged that it has been a long road to the promotion, and he said he’ll be alright when adjusting to his new role. After 16 years on the road between two departments, he will start as a sergeant on afternoon road patrol shifts while also supervising 6-7 officers on shift.

And for the boy who first told his parents about his police officer aspirations at a football game during his youth, the next chapter of his life is set to unfold.

The same can be said for Niko.

“It was fun. We had a good run,” said a choked-up Vandervord. “Things change in life for the better. It’s time. When an opportunity comes about you’ve got to take it, and this is it for me. (It took) a lot of hard work and dedication, and now I’m here.”

He acknowledged that Niko’s time in the K-9 unit was close to its conclusion. The dog turns 9 in November, and he said that around the age of 10, things tend to go downhill.

Because of the dog’s age and the opportunity to be promoted, Vandervord said timing was a factor in the decision. Now, as Niko will spend the rest of his time around the Vandervords’ house, his handler will still be cruising the streets of Fraser — only in a different format.

“You just get to a point where you’re ready for change, you feel you need to change,” he said. “And if you think you can fulfill that void and do well for the department, you’ve got to go for it.”