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K-9 Officer Bo expert at sniffing out crime, catching crooks

Most work is tracking, drug detection for Belgian Malinois

by Alison stewart | staff writer Published: February 27, 2013 12:00 AM
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Streetsboro -- Streetsboro Police Officer Aaron Coates has a unusually close relationship with his partner.

"Bo is with me all the time," said Coates. "He's my partner, he's with me at home, and he'll be with me until he retires or passes away."

Coates has been the K-9 handler for the Streetsboro Police Department since 2009. His partner, Bo, a Belgian Malinois, was donated by his owner in 2008 and became a certified police dog in 2009. Since then, Coates and Bo have kept busy helping other departments, training and tracking drugs and criminals.

"My friends had police dogs," said Coates. "My uncle ran K-9s in the Air Force, so it has always been an interest of mine. When I heard we were receiving a police dog, I applied and was selected.

Bo is a dual purpose K-9 officer, trained in drugs, tracking, and, if necessary, apprehension, said Coates.

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"When I took him on his first traffic stop, he found some crack cocaine in a woman's car who was on parole," said Coates. "She went back to prison for four years."

In 2012, Bo had 331 on duty K-9 assists, and 72 charges were filed as a result of K-9 use, according to the 2012 Police Annual Report.

Continued training also is important: 276 K-9 team training hours were logged, according to the 2012 annual police report. Bo also had two off-duty mutual aid call outs from outside agencies, six off-duty call outs, and attended 16 K-9 team community relations events.

Call outs are when another agency calls and asks for Bo's assistance whether he is on duty or not according to Coates.

"I like to make myself as available as possible," he said.

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A lot of people have the wrong idea about police dogs, according to Coates.

"Everyone thinks dogs are there to bite someone, but that is a rarity," said Coates. "The majority of work they do is tracking and drug work."

According to Coates, Bo bit one person in 2012.

"Most people give up once they see the dog, but this guy didn't," said Coates. "A man broke into a house while the people were home. When we got there, he had run outside and was hiding in about 300 acres of soy beans. He was laying down hiding, and I gave Bo the order to jump on him. When he did, the guy started moving and Bo bit him once to get the man to stop."

Bo also has located several missing people. In 2012, there was a juvenile missing from a home, and Bo was able to track her to a neighbor's house, according to Coates.

"There was another situation in which Bo found a couple pounds of weed and some hand guns [in] a car," said Coates.

In the past four years, Bo and Coates have had approximately 2,000 hours of training together according to Coates. They participate in weekly training sessions with a regional training group consisting of several area police agencies known as Buckeye Area Regional K-9 or BARK.

In drug training, the dog's toys are scented and when they sniff out the toy they then get to play with it as a reward according to Coates. For tracking training, food is laid out around a track. Each time less and less food is laid out until there is only food at the end of the track. The dog then has to sniff his way to the end to find the food.

"This learning process can take a long time," said Coates. "We use hand signals and German words in order to communicate," said Coates. "Some hand signals include me telling him to come or to keep going left. The criminal won't be able to understand what I'm telling Bo to do since I use a foreign language. We do continuous weekly, as well as daily training. We go all over Northeast Ohio."

According to Coates, police dogs usually retire between ages 6 and 10.

"Bo is four years old so he'll be around for a while," said Coates.

Email: astewart@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4163

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