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McDonough Police Department adds new K-9 officer

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

The McDonough Police Department has a new K-9 officer with an international pedigree.

Rocco, a three-year-old Belgian Malinois, was introduced to the McDonough City Council at its meeting on Monday. He was presented to the council by his handler, McDonough Police Officer Gregory Lyons.

"They [the police department] sent me to Louisiana to train with him for three weeks, starting March 22," he said. "After the three weeks, we were allowed to bring him home."

Lyons began belting out commands that sounded a far cry from "sit" and "fetch." Rocco's commands are given in Dutch, said Lyons.

"It's a lot easier to train me to give him commands in Dutch, versus trying to train him again in English, and him being confused," Lyons said after his visit to the council.

Lyons told council members that Rocco was trained to detect narcotics, apprehend criminals, and track scents. The McDonough Police Department paid $13,000 to acquire Rocco. Money for the purchase came from the city's general budget, said McDonough Police Chief Preston Dorsey.

"If a child was missing, we can let this dog smell some type of clothing, or something the child had, and we can track the scent of that child," said Dorsey.

Police dogs also can perform "article searches," to look for a weapon a suspect has thrown away, Dorsey said.

"Say we get somebody who is involved in an armed robbery or some type of assault, and they throw the knife or the gun in a wooded or grassy area," he said. "This dog can help us go in that area and find it, because his nose is extremely sensitive."

The police department obtained Rocco from K-9 Concepts, Inc., in Broussard, La., said Lyons. Rocco was imported from authorities in Holland, he said.

Rocco is not the city's first K-9 officer, Lyons said.

"We just retired one," he said, adding that the dog was donated to another police department. "I was the owner of that dog. He was an older dog and he still wanted to work. We needed something a little more high speed."

The law enforcement career of a police dog is usually only a few years, said Dorsey.

"We usually get about five to seven years out of a police dog," he said. "It's according to how hard they [work]."

He said retiring police dogs are often given to their handlers as pets or donated to other departments.