NORTH LIBERTY — Thanks to support from the North Liberty City Council, as well as the North Liberty community, the North Liberty Police Department has its first K-9 officer.
North Liberty Police Chief Diane Venenga said that as of Nov. 15, the department had raised $62,771 to put toward the acquisition, training and outfitting of their dog, Falco, and his handler, officer Ben Campbell. Venenga said the city council gifted the police department $30,000 for the K-9 program. The rest came from public, civic and business donations.
“I think it definitely shows great community support,” she said.
Campbell, who has been with the department for nearly three years, acquired Falco from the Chariton-based Canine Tactical of Iowa. Falco is a Belgian Malinois trained in narcotics detection, tracking and apprehension. Falco and Campbell started training together in late October and have been patrolling together — predominantly on night shifts — since early December.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do,” said Campbell of becoming a K-9 officer. “It’s nice having him there immediately if I need him.”
Campbell said there was an obvious need for a K-9 in North Liberty as well. For years, they have relied on K9s in neighboring jurisdictions. Now, Campbell said they can handle their own drug and tracking calls and assist other communities, as needed.
Falco and Campbell are still forging their bond, but Campbell said the two are becoming closer all the time.
“He’s always looking up at me,” he said. “He’s always looking for direction from me ... I brush him daily. I pet him constantly.”
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Since returning to patrol, Campbell and Falco have done one article search, two tracks and several drug seizures, including one “very large” seizure that remains under investigation, Campbell said.
Campbell said he doesn’t put a lot of pressure on himself as the department’s first K-9 officer, but is relying on fellow handlers in the county for advice. “We all have each others’ numbers,” he said. “We’re a pretty tight-knit community.”
Venenga said after relying on neighboring jurisdictions for so long, it’s nice to be able to contribute their own resources to both the other law enforcement agencies and the North Liberty community.
“This is a community dog,” she said. “This is a working dog. In the event he’s needed, he’s available.”
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