Warren introduces four new police K-9 teams

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published April 27, 2018

 Officer Jeremy Kenyon, of the Warren Police Department, and his new partner, Astra, recently completed training together with the U.S. Border Patrol in Virginia.

Officer Jeremy Kenyon, of the Warren Police Department, and his new partner, Astra, recently completed training together with the U.S. Border Patrol in Virginia.

Photo by Brian Louwers

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WARREN — For years, the Warren Police Department has relied on other agencies when officers have needed a dog to track a person, recover evidence or find drugs. From this point forward, a K-9 team will almost always be on duty in the city.

On April 25, the department introduced its four new K-9 teams — each including a trained handler, a canine companion and a specially modified police vehicle — during a morning event in the City Hall atrium.

The return of the Warren Police K-9 Unit was announced in November, and four officers have since cleared a “rigorous” application process and 14 weeks of training, which included a seven-week program at the U.S. Border Patrol facility in Front Royal, Virginia. Police commanders said the city partnered with the Border Patrol, which facilitated the dog selection process with top breeders from the Czech Republic.  

The four new K-9 teams, set to begin work on patrol almost immediately, are Officer Brandon Roy, with Kantor; Officer Andrew Koerner, with Rita; Officer Todd Benczkowski, with Alfa, and Officer Jeremy Kenyon, with Astra. The handlers were selected from an original field of 50 applicants within the department that was later narrowed to 18.   

“It’s a very exciting day for this department and the citizens of Warren,” Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer said. He later added, “This entire program is funded by narcotics forfeiture funds.”

With Warren patrol officers assigned to 12-hour shifts, Dwyer said the city will have “full coverage,” with each shift including a K-9 team beginning April 27.

The dogs that Warren received, all 1-2 years old, were described as the “cream of the crop” offered by the breeders. They are adept at skills including narcotics detection, tracking and evidence recovery. Training will be ongoing as the dogs mature and settle into their new roles, and their human partners learn to read their behavior.

“The process itself, it’s just overwhelming,” Benczkowski said. “You have to be able to read your dog. Every dog is different. They display different alerts, which you have to learn to read and decipher.

“That is truly an incredibly hard thing to do. It takes a long time to build that confidence. It takes a long time to build that trust between the both of you, and he’s learning that trust as well. The program was incredible. We were very fortunate to be able to work with the Border Patrol. We came out highly confident and ready for the road,” Benczkowski said.

Roy said his partner, Kantor, is always eager to work and does “extremely well” in narcotics detection.

“He’s got a great nose. He’s got a great temperament, an incredible drive to work,” Roy said. “He’s a puppy. He’s rambunctious. He’ll settle in. All he wants to do is go to work.”

Mayor Jim Fouts praised Dwyer and his command staff for bringing a K-9 unit back to Warren after many years. The mayor said he hopes the dogs will help combat the ongoing scourge of drugs, particularly the heroin and opioid epidemic that continues to claim lives across the region.

As the mayor is fond of doing, he paraphrased President Harry Truman, who reportedly once said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

“In this case, we got four great friends who are going to befriend the city and make this a much safer city,” Fouts said.

Dwyer thanked the Warren Police Officers Association for supporting the effort to bring the K-9 program back. He said the city received donations from several organizations for supplies and equipment for the K-9 unit, including the Professional Law Enforcement Association (PLEA), General Motors Co. and the law firm of Garan Lucow Miller.

On Nov. 28, the City Council unanimously approved an appropriation in the amount of $102,775 to create the program and to outfit four previously purchased Ford Explorers for K-9 use. Officials are confident that the program will become self-funding through narcotics-related forfeitures and seizures.

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