The city’s fourth K-9 officer is on duty.
Irie, a 20-month-old German shepherd, began working the midnight shift with new K-9 handler Patrolman Jake Julio the week of June 8, shortly after Julio gained his certification as a handler.
Irie cost the city $15,500, including the cost of the animal, as well as training.
Irie has quickly proven his worth. On his second night on the job, he helped track down a girl who was suspected of stealing alcohol from a minimart on Center Ridge Road before running into some woods.
“He led me right to her,” Julio said. The suspect was arrested for theft and referred to juvenile court.
Julio, 29, has been on the North Ridgeville police force for seven years. He is thrilled with his new partner and job responsibilities. “It’s like one of those positions you see on TV as a kid and think. ‘Man, I’d like to do that someday,’” Julio said. “To me, just being a cop was like a dream come true.”
Julio said he loves animals, so becoming a K-9 handler seemed a natural step. “When the K-9 position came up, I thought, ‘Oh, this is great for me. He’s just the coolest dog in the world.” After five weeks of training in Columbus, Julio was ready to work with his new partner.
“The dog was already set,” Julio said, adding that his partner had gone through approximately 10 weeks of training. Irie is trained in both narcotics and patrol applications, the latter being mostly tracking suspects.
North Ridgeville’s department is divided into four platoons with each one having its own K-9 officer and K-9 handler. “You basically now have 24/7 K-9 coverage,” Julio said.
K-9 officers and their handlers often respond to mutual-aid requests from neighboring departments and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Irie lives with Julio, just as most K-9 officers live with their handlers. Julio said Irie is such a friendly animal and was welcomed quickly into his North Ridgeville home, although he said he sometimes needs to remind his wife, Bernie, that Irie is a working dog and not a traditional pet.
“I mean he is a pet, but he’s not a pet,” Julio said. “We’re just blessed to be able to have him.”
Working the night shift, Julio and Irie likely will never have the opportunity to take on many of the PR duties completed by most K-9 officers and their handlers in the pre-coronavirus era, such as visiting schools and community events. But Julio said he enjoys taking Irie for walks through his neighborhood.
“Most people know me in the development and they’ll say, ‘Aren’t you the new K-9 handler?’” Julio said, adding that he is always ready to give folks a chance to meet his still-new charge .
“I love him to death already. He’s a great dog,” Julio said.
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