Duo relies on generosity of Mt. Pleasant to keep K-9 program going

| Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 8:57 p.m.

For the past two years, the Mt. Pleasant Police Department has been fortunate to have an additional officer on their force — one who not only knows his job, but also one who has the nose for the job, and K-9 officer Gerro marks his second year on the force.

Partnered with Officer George Grippo, the duo has spent the past two years not only working on drug-related and tracking arrests, but also providing informational programs and demonstrations to groups and organizations.

The canine was acquired to help deter the drug situation in the area, and Mt. Pleasant Mayor Jerry Lucia said he is impressed with the experience that the dog has acquired over the years.

“As of late, they have been working real well,” Lucia said of the canine and his handler. “The more experience that they get, the better they perform.”

Grippo and Gerro have attended two sets of extensive training, passing the certifications for both courses that include patrol and narcotics.

“He trained and is certified in advanced obedience, area search, building search, tracking, article search and aggressiveness control,” Grippo said.

To fund the program, Grippo has received donations from groups, organizations and individuals and continues to raise money through other fundraising events.

“We have been very very fortunate,” Grippo said. “We have people who are hosting fundraisers for us, and we have had some students who have done projects for us. Also, the community has been very generous in its support of us.”

Grippo has taken Gerro to area schools to participate in searches and has assisted other area departments on calls where the canine has been very instrumental in apprehensions and arrests.

“We've been called for tracking and searching in a lot of different places,” Grippo said. “We have assisted Scottdale police, the Pennsylvania state police, the FBI and have been working with the drug task force. We've been very busy.”

In addition to calls, Grippo and Gerro have a regular shift that they maintain full time, and when time allows, the pair can be seen walking in the borough parks and on the streets.

“We also do programs and demonstrations for different groups so people can see how he works,” Grippo said, adding that Gerro and the program itself offer the community many advantages.

“It's not all about making arrests,” Grippo said. “He has so many different uses, such as offering officer protection, helping with search warrants and he also works as a deterrent for people using drugs.”

Grippo is required to attain maintenance training on a weekly basis and after two years will soon be in need of a new vehicle for his canine partner.

“My car is really getting up there in miles, and I am now looking into getting some grants,” Grippo said. “I'd like to get an SUV, which would be great for hauling equipment.”

For now, the pair can be seen in the special K-9 vehicle as they patrol the borough and assist where they are needed.

“They are working great at enforcement here in the borough,” Lucia said, adding that the public may not be aware of the extent of dedication and training it takes to have a successful canine unit. “People don't realize that it's not like taking your dog in the backyard and tossing a stick to them. The training is intense and something that has to been done, and Officer Grippo is dedicated and those two are always together. They are like brothers.”

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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