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Fully vested: Vidor’s K9 officer gets extra protection

 

By Ken Stickney

ken.stickney@panews.com

Here’s what Rocky’s done for Vidor police: His presence can defuse dangerous situations and convince criminal suspects to calm down.

Here’s what Vested Interest in K9s Inc. has done for Rocky, the Vidor department’s police dog: The Massachusetts-based, 501c(3) charity has provided Rocky with a protective ballistic vest to help shield him from attack.

“This dog can de-escalate situations,” Chief Rod Carroll said Monday. Where some people may challenge the men and women in blue, “Suspects may not fight a dog.”

That, Carroll said, is the whole idea: De-escalation.

Vidor police obtained Rocky, a 3-year-old Belgian malinois, from a Texas company about a year ago. He’s Vidor’s first department dog since about 2010, Carroll said.

Rocky’s handler is Officer Ethan Mansfield. The dog and the officer did about six weeks of training together before Rocky went on duty.

Carroll said Mansfield applied through Vested Interest for the protective gear about a year ago. About three months ago, he got word that the vest, with a value of more than $1,700, was approved.

Vested Interest, established in 2009, has provided vests to more than 3,100 police dogs in all 50 states through private and corporate donations valued at more than $5.7 million.

Carroll said the department sent in measurements — they are specific for Rocky — and received the vest Friday.

Fitting was important, Carroll said, because the dog has to be mobile to do his work. Rocky has adjusted to the vest quickly.

The vest was given in honor of Canton, Ohio, K9 officer Jethro, who was killed in the line of duty by a burglary suspect at a grocery store on Jan. 10, 2010. Jethro was shot while trying to apprehend the suspect, who drew a sentence of 34 years for killing the K9, 11 for the burglary, with sentences running consecutively.

Carroll said Vidor’s dog can detect illegal substances, such as heroin, cocaine and marijuana, and other contraband. He assists with Interstate 10 traffic stops and in the city of Vidor, and also trains for working with other area police dogs, such as those in Beaumont and Port Neches.

“It’s been a learning process,” Carroll said of restarting the police dog unit. Initially, Rocky was “apprehensive” with officers at the station, but is more “relaxed” now.

He’s clever, too: Carroll said the dog gets a special treat for detecting drugs, but sometimes tries to cash in for a treat by sitting outside the evidence room where drugs have been stored away.

“He’ll look at the door and expect a treat. We have to tell him, ‘No, Rocky, you’ve already found that stuff,’” Carroll said.

He said that Rocky is popular with the public, too.

In fact, Carroll said, one local woman advised that the department ought to issue a calendar with 12 of the dog’s images and call it, “12 Months of Rocky.”