Editor’s note: This is an additional story in a series that will follow the Fairborn Citizen’s Police Academy. Look for the installment each week until the course ends.
FAIRBORN — Fairborn K9 Unit Bac is an officer with both a bark and a bite.
He is 2-year-old, 90-pound Belgian Malinois who can understand English, Dutch and German commands and is capable of detecting drugs and discarded evidence, area searches, tracking and apprehending suspects under the guidance of Fairborn Officer Joe Pence.
He highlighted his duties, demonstrated some of the dog’s capabilities and allowed students to pet Bac during week 10 of the Fairborn Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy.
“I’m responsible for everything he does … You’ve got to have common sense when handling an animal like this,” Pence said.
The Fairborn Police Department first brought Bac onto the force during the fall months of 2015 after the dog and Pence underwent training courses. At the end of Bac’s shift, which lasts seven and a half hours at a time for five days per week, he goes home with Pence and is included as a member of the family.
Pence and Bac continue their obedience training together on a daily basis and police training for one day out of the week, which is more than the national standard for police dogs. Bac must qualify for certification to participate in police work on a yearly basis.
“You have to be disciplined with [training] because it doesn’t take much to spoil your dog — then if you give your dog an inch there’s no doubt he’s going to take that mile — then when it comes time for yearly certification, the dog will not pass and it all comes back on the handler,” Pence said. “… It’s not as easy as I thought it was going to be, and I’m glad. I worked hard to get here and I’d be ashamed if it were a cake walk.”
If he is in the process of apprehending a suspect, he is trained not to bite if the individual stops running. Instead, he will get close to the suspect and continually bark. If he finds a suspect while tracking, his body will posture forward and Pence must look at the tip of his tail between his ears, similar to a gun sight, to find what the officers are looking for.
Pence must patrol with a particular police vehicle, as it is designed for riding with Bac and includes temperature control, in addition to a medical kit for treating a dog wound. A vest designed for protecting Bac against knife and bullet wounds is on the way. Bac will not sniff out explosives, as it puts him at risk, and is being trained not to bite into packages to prevent accidental drug ingestion. Fairborn medics have been trained to help the dog should he overdose on drugs.
“I have a feeling that he is going to do a lot of great work here,” Pence said. “He is a fantastic dog.”
School Resource Officer
An individual who serves as a school resource officer fulfills his or her duties through three roles, including a counselor, teacher and law enforcement officer, according to Fairborn School Resource Officer Nate Penrod.
“What’s great about the school resource officer program is you build that rapport, that relationship [between children and law enforcement] at a young age,” Penrod said. “It’s been gratifying so far already, just since [I started in this role in] January.”
He spends time within Fairborn Intermediate School, Baker Middle School and occassionally Fairborn Digital Academy, while Officer Jim Hern serves Fairborn High School and other educational facilities within the southern direction of the city. Hern additionally teaches introduction to law enforcement to the high school students and beginning next school year, Penrod will teach DARE classes.
“The program places law enforcement officers in the schools with the goal of creating and maintaining a safe and secure learning environment for students, teachers and staff,” Penrod said. “The officer represents much more than a ‘cop in the shop.’ The school resource officer program reflects the community’s desire to ensure that its schools are safe, secure and orderly … The primary purpose is to keep the peace so that students can learn and teachers can teach.”
School resource officers are not administrators within the school, which means that it is not up to Hern or Penrod to assign discipline to students should they misbehave. However, they are still officers of the law, but when that role must take the front seat it occurs on a case-by-case basis.
“We are a police officer at that time, so we ask where it is occurring and if it’s happening locally we get all the [essential] information and look into it,” Penrod said.
Week 11 of the Citizens Police Academy highlights dispatch and polygraphs.