Southwest Regional will bolster department by adding K-9 unit
The Southwest Regional Police Department will soon welcome a new addition, and for Officer Dave Hromada, it's been a long time coming.
The department will acquire its first-ever police dog next week, and Hromada – who once handled a dog for the Fayette County Drug Task Force – can't wait to work with a four-legged partner again.
“I had a Dutch shepherd and, unfortunately, she passed away unexpectedly on Christmas Day in 2009,” said Hromada, an eight-year Southwest veteran. “What I've strived for my entire career was handling K-9s, so it's been a long wait.”
Hromada is scheduled to go to Lone Wolf Kennels in McClure, Ohio, Oct. 19 to finish bonding with Kyros before the pair return to the Valley as partners.
“I'm already trained, and he's already trained, so it's all about getting familiar with each other,” Hromada said. “It is a special bond, and you can't put it into words unless you experience it.”
Kyros – which is Greek for “leader” – is a 2 1⁄2-year-old German shepherd. He weighs 93 pounds and is certified in drug detection, tracking, criminal apprehension, crowd control and article searches.
The process has been painstaking for Southwest Chief John Hartman, who gained approval from his police board more than a year ago. Because the department covers a large area – 94 square miles with 15,000 people – Hartman saw the addition of a K-9 officer as being common sense.
The plan is for Kyros to be sworn-in and on the streets by month's end.
“‘Enhance' is the best word I could use for employing a dog. It gives you a better edge in fighting crime. And with the trend we see occurring, the K-9 becomes a tool we feel we needed and the board felt we needed,” Hartman said. “A dog clearly can do more than a uniformed officer when you're dealing with drugs, trafficking and even school searches.”
The addition of Kyros has been years in the making, Hartman said. And as Southwest's coverage area has expanded, so has the need for a police dog.
“We all live in a land of limited resources, but sometimes you get to a point where you have to have those internal capabilities and say, ‘Really, we should be responsible with this ourselves,'” Hartman said.
“Police have always been hurt, and criminals have always run. Police are getting hurt a lot more, and suspects are running a lot more. Just (based on) the basic logistics, a dog can run faster than a human being. We intend on employing him actively.”
Hartman and Hromada want Kyros to interweave himself into the community.
“He's not just there to jump out of a car and chase people,” Hromada said. “People think we're police officers all the time, and they do the same with police dogs. But we have home lives.
“When the dog goes home, he's just a pet trying to run around and get attention. That's part of what we want to show with Kyros.”
Hartman intends to produce a blog on which children can interact with the dog and ask him questions. The chief will “translate.”
“I want to reach out and let people know that this dog is theirs, and he's there to help them,” Hartman said. “Kids can say, ‘Hi Kyros, what did you do today?' and he can tell them. There's a connection you can make. I can tell you, there's been an overwhelming response to our getting this dog, and it's all positive.”
So far, Southwest Regional has received donations from private companies, citizens and municipalities. Hartman noted a disabled woman who sent a letter lamenting that she wished she could give more than her $5 donation.
Installing a K-9 officer can be costly. The dogs cost $2,500 to more than $10,000. Then there's officer training and a K-9 vehicle. Southwest Regional is converting a Ford Explorer for that purpose.
“You don't just put a dog in the back of a car. You have to seriously upgrade your vehicle with air conditioning, tinted windows and install the kennel portion,” Hartman said. “It's well worth it. He's going to be the K-9 for the entire region, so he's going to be a very busy guy.”
Donations to the K-9 fund can be mailed to 212 State St., Belle Vernon, PA 15012, or by calling 724-929-8484.
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.