Ready for action

The newest member of the Williamsport Bureau of Police is a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois canine named Edo. Sponsored by the Sun-Gazette, Edo’s primary duties will involve detecting narcotics and aiding the police in the apprehension of suspects. He’s been with the police force a little over a month.

At a Chamber of Commerce event in March, Sun-Gazette Publisher Bernard A. Oravec learned the police department had been without a K-9 for quite some time. Oravec recognized that sponsoring a new K-9 was an opportunity for the paper to assist the city.

“The Sun-Gazette has been a part of Williamsport for a long time,” Oravec said. “Helping the police purchase a canine is a small way for us to help stop the drug problems in our community.”

Edo went through weeks of training in Tar Heel, North Carolina, with his handler, Officer Joshua Bell. A month ago, after they were certified, the pair traveled to Williamsport to begin their work as a crime-fighting duo.

“Edo is trained to bite and apprehend, track and trail, and search buildings for suspects,” Bell said. “We will also adjust Edo’s training to help him adapt and fit future additional duties.”

In addition to his tracking capabilities, Edo can be used for protection.

The Belgian Malinois is a breed of shepherd and classified as a working dog. It often is used for detection of explosives, accelerants and narcotics and for search and rescue.

Intelligent, active and protective of their handlers, the Belgian Malinois can make an immediate impression on those on the wrong side of the law.

Bell has a long history of training dogs. He joined the Air Force in 1999 where his interest in training military dogs was piqued while observing others perform the task. Since then, he’s been training dogs for combat in countries such as Turkey and Iraq as part of the Department of Defense’s K-9 military. These canines are taught to detect explosives in combat, in addition to the basic training Edo is receiving.

After returning home in 2008, Bell joined the police force and has been tasked with being Edo’s handler.

The last K-9 the force had, Boss, died unexpectedly, and Bell is very excited that the department is getting another. He also anticipates a future need in the bureau for more canine companions.

“The demand is so high,” Bell said. “We would benefit from even more dogs down the road.”

Purchasing at least one more dog is a goal of city Mayor Gabriel J. Campana.

The cost of such a trained police dog is about $9,000, he said, but “I believe they do make a difference.”

“Having a police dog is an additional tool in our tool box to fight crime. This dog is going to be very, very active not only in drug prevention but as an officer to detect drugs,” Campana said. “I appreciate the Sun-Gazette’s willingness to be a partner in this endeavor.”

In the two weeks that Edo has been a working member of the city police force, he already has been instrumental in “locating drugs and assisting in putting some people behind bars,” Campana said.

City police Chief Gregory Foresman said the police staff is pleased with Edo’s performance so far.

“So far, I think he’s been performing better than expected. He’s performing up to our expectations and then some. He’s already gotten some drugs and found some other items. I think this dog’s going to work out very well,” Foresman said.

“We’re very happy to have our new four-legged officer aboard,” he added.