Police Beat: Police K9 handlers forge deep bonds with their four-legged partners

Local News

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It takes a special breed of officer to become a K9 handler. The bond between a police dog and its human counterpart is a deep one, forged over many hours of training, working and living together.

In the City of Syracuse, there are six teams who serve a myriad of missions; two narcotics dogs, three explosive dogs, and one firearms dog.

Through September of 2019, the Syracuse Police K9 teams have responded to:

  • 2,889 calls for service
  • Assisted in 59 felony arrests
  • 96 misdemeanor arrests
  • 114 building searches
  • 55 area searches
  • 61 bomb sweeps
  • 26 drug searches
  • 28 criminal apprehensions

Their firearms detection K9 has located five guns.

Regular training is how Syracuse Police officer Daniel Rathbun and K9 partner Brit, maintain their skills.  Brit is a 3-year-old German Shepherd and they’ve been partnered since February 2019. Three days a month are dedicated to nothing but training.

Becoming a K9 handler is far from an easy task. The training is long and intense. Nine weeks are spent on basic patrol and tracking, building searches, suspect apprehension, and obedience.  Detector training school is another six weeks.

Officer John Nye started with the K9 unit this past April.

“I always like patrol and I’m more of a boots on the ground, front line type of individual, so K9 was a real good fit,” Nye said.

Nye’s K9 partner is Jarda, a two-year-old German Shepherd. Jarda is a narcotics dog too, so he specializes in detecting cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines.

The bond developed quickly and Jarda has a way of letting people know Nye is more than a partner. 

“The only time he bit me was during toy play and he was trying to get his toy. I’m going to put the blame on myself, I probably didn’t present it to him right and everything is a game to them. They are not vicious, they’re not out to hurt people. Everything is a game, so you’ll see when we get him out on calls. He walks around and I take him out to the airport and I work there, and he can get out and walk around. People pet him. Kids pet him. So, he’s very sociable,” says Officer Nye.

The K9’s may be social, but they are dead serious when it comes to police work.

“On a scale of one to ten, the dogs that we are working with in the K9 unit, they’re at a level 12 as far as drive goes, ” says Rathbun.

Digital Extra: Hear a little more from the K9 handlers:

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