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Charleroi Regional Police board receives K-9 update

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 1:56 a.m.

Police Officer Bill Gardner has been working with his K-9 partner, Rex, since spring 2008.

Gardner told the Charleroi Regional Police board on Wednesday that his working relationship likely can continue another two years before Rex “retires.”

Rex, a Belgian Malinois shepherd, is 8 years old, Gardner said. It is a breed that commonly serves 10 years in police work before retiring, Gardner said.

In comparison, German shepherd K-9 dogs generally retire after eight years on the job, Gardner said.

“With good health, I would hope to get two more years with Rex,” Gardner said. “I have full confidence in him.”

Noting that Rocco, a Pittsburgh K-9 dog, died after being stabbed in the line of duty late last month, board Chairman Randy DiPiazza asked if Rex has a protective vest.

DiPiazza is a Charleroi councilman.

Gardner said he has a vest for the dog, but Rex wears it only occasionally – during searches, for example. He said it is too heavy for the dog to wear on a regular basis.

He said Rex also has a life jacket for use in searches near the Monongahela River.

Board member and North Charleroi Councilman Bob Hodgson asked Gardner when he would recommend training with a new dog.

Gardner suggested that when the time comes to replace Rex, the department purchase a trained dog. That wasn't possible in the case of Rex, because Gardner first had to undergo training to handle a K-9 partner.

DiPiazza said Gardner will decide when it is time to retire Rex.

Grant sought

The board agreed to apply for a grant from The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation.

The foundation was established by the Steelers' quarterback with a mission of “supporting K-9 units of police and fire departments throughout the U.S. with a particular emphasis on support for service dogs,” according to its website.

The board also will seek applications for an internship, likely from criminal justice majors.

Board member Larry Celaschi suggested the intern work in all of the regional department's municipalities. The Charleroi councilman said tasks could involve public awareness and acquiring emergency contacts for business owners.

At the beginning of the meeting, DiPiazza asked nine members of the regional police force to stand and introduce themselves. Chief Mike Matyas was at the board table.

The board members also introduced themselves.

The department, which patrols Charleroi, North Charleroi, Speers and Twilight, responded to 304 calls in January.

“Keep up the good work,” DiPiazza told the officers. “Kudos. I applaud you. Believe me, we take notice.”

Celaschi said lines of communication are open between the board and the officers.

“If you don't communicate, that's how problems arise,” Celaschi said. “If you have any problems, please communicate with us.”

Charleroi Mayor John Mollenauer told the officers his office is open.

“Feel free, if I'm available, to come in and talk with me one-on-one,” Mollenauer said.

“It's great to see the best police department in the Valley here,” board member and Speers Mayor Bill Lee said.

“Keep up the good work.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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