Police K-9 units throughout the country are dedicated to giving citizens stellar police service, addressing crime, and solving issues to enforce the law by using a different type of approach from the police department. The use of K-9 police dogs is a key factor in making this police branch safe and efficient. When citizens encounter a K-9 unit, they have mixed feelings. Some feel safe, while others may feel scared or threatened. Why is this?
Many people think that police dogs are vicious animals that only know how to attack people. However, people do not know the background of why the K-9 units exist and how valuable the dogs are in the police force. The Cincinnati Police K-9 Unit was one of the earliest K-9 units in the country and is still running to this day because of the organizations that contribute to its success.
The Cincinnati Police K-9 Unit was formed in 1960, one of the earliest units in the country. According to prnewswire.com, K-9 units are responsible for “assisting officers in high-risk search operations that often require the dog’s keen sense of smell to locate potentially armed and dangerous individuals suspected of criminal activity and evading police.” The Cincinnati K-9 Unit is specifically responsible for covering the whole city, which is five police districts.
Cincinnati’s K-9 Unit has had a total of 110 dogs since their program opened. Currently, the unit has eighteen dogs. According to Branden Mentz, a police officer who works with these animals, out of the eighteen total dogs, there are “two explosive detection dogs, four narcotics detection dogs, and twelve patrol dogs. Of those twelve patrol dogs, eight are cross-trained with narcotics detection.” Their office is located on 800 Evans, which is at the Cincinnati Police Academy in the traffic office. The Cincinnati Police K-9 Unit also works with The Matt Haverkamp Foundation as well as other organizations, while receiving donations to help their business grow to keep the Cincinnati area safe.
The Matt Haverkamp Foundation was established in November of 2005 in remembrance of K-9 officer Matt Haverkamp. This foundation is a non-profit and its purpose is to continue Matt’s legacy and to keep his memory alive through supporting the law enforcement agencies in communities throughout the greater Cincinnati area. WLWT said the foundation “assists police departments across Greater Cincinnati, providing training support and placement for K-9 officers.” The Matt Haverkamp Foundation has raised its money through sponsors, donated funds, and two annual fundraising events. The two events they hold every year are a 5K run at Spring Grove Cemetery and a golf outing. According to matthaverkamp.com, “Since the Foundation’s inception, we have been able to fund twenty eight K9’s with the more than $177,000 that have been raised.” In connection with The Matt Haverkamp Foundation, and with donated funds from the Cincinnati Woman’s Club, Branden Mentz’s canine, Porter, was purchased. The Haverkamp Foundation has a Facebook page as well as a Twitter account that shares information about new canines to the Cincinnati Department, upcoming events, and much more.
The Matt Haverkamp Foundation and Toyota have also partnered to help the Cincinnati Police K-9 Unit. The Matt Haverkamp Foundation Facebook page posted the following: “Toyota provided the resources for Tacoma’s identification and training while The Matt Haverkamp Foundation helped purchase the K9.”
Toyota has also donated $5,000 to the CPD to replace a retiring member of their canine unit, Dakota. According to PR Newswire, police officials decided to show their gratitude by naming the new dog “Tundra,” after Toyota’s truck. CPD was thrilled with the donation, because without it, they were not sure if they would have had the funds to replace Dakota. Toyota also helped donate Tacoma. WLWT said, “Tacoma replaces Tundra, a K-9 unit member that died last year  after serving the Cincinnati area since 2007.” Thankfully, these organizations are available to help donate money and police dogs because without their help, the department would be understaffed and would not be able to be fully effective for the public. The Matt Haverkamp Foundation Facebook posted, “Tacoma is a dual-purpose dog: patrol work and drug detection.”
In the fifty-five years that the unit has been in operation (since 1960), there have been two dogs that have died in the line of duty: Condor and Bandit. Condor was the first Cincinnati Police dog killed in the line of duty. Condor died in October of 1975 while on the job with his handler, officer Harold Weisbrodt. Branden Mentz said about this incident: “Condor was struck by a vehicle near District 4 police station. Condor is buried at the Cincinnati Police Target Range in Evendale.”
Bandit died on April 16, 1987. The Cincinnati Police K-9 Unit’s Facebook page posted an article back in 2010 titled “Remembering Bandit” that explained the incident that day. In the article the author said, “With no fear or hesitation, and with only selfless loyalty to his handler in mind, Bandit charged in. The gun fired and Bandit was hit. The bullets entered his right shoulder and tore through his heart, even as he was engaging the shooter.” Bandit saved the lives of officers that day by risking his life to help take down the armed suspect. His bravery and loyalty to his partner cost him his life. Police dogs risk their lives every day to keep their handlers safe by being put in the middle of situations between the officer and suspect that could be dangerous.
The K-9 unit’s goals and objectives are to locate items with a certain type of scent. Mentz shared the specific goals and objectives for their canines in the unit: “Canines are used to locate things that have human odor, narcotic odor, or explosive odor depending on the discipline of the dog. Some dogs are cross-trained to locate more than one type of odor and some dogs are single-purpose dogs trained for only one of the three disciplines. There are canines that are used for other things across the country such as cadaver dogs, search and rescue, etc, CPD only uses narcotics, patrol, and explosive dogs.” Branden Mentz has been with the Cincinnati Police Department since June of 2007 and transferred to K-9 unit in March of 2015. Mentz’s dog, Porter, is cross-trained for both patrol and narcotics detections. Mentz explained, “Patrol includes tracking suspects, area searches, building searches, and article searches, which are items discarded by suspects. Police officers like to put the dogs in situations that would normally be unsafe for a police officer.”
Along with goals and objectives for the unit, they are also active with the Cincinnati community. The unit enjoys getting the dogs involved at events, schools, and other locations to show the community that K-9 dogs are not just vicious animals, and that they are a safe alternative in apprehending dangerous suspects. A police dog is a much safer option for decreasing injury for both the police and the suspect. Officers and suspects both get shot at less when a dog is there to make an apprehension.
Along with community initiatives, the K-9 unit uses communication between officers, police dogs, as well as with the public. The most effective kind of police communication is conducted face to face. When that option is not available, the K-9 unit has a few other means of communication between officers. Branden Mentz said, “One is via deployment records. We document each and every training and real life k9 [K-9] deployment.” The unit also takes two days out of the month for training. During these training days, the officers can work on issues the dogs are having and pass information to each other. The officers have a few common words they use during training with their canines. Some words are “hook odor,” “throw a change,” and “behavior change.” Mentz added, “They are mostly used to describe the behavior change in the dog when he is hunting and then finds odors.” On the Cincinnati Police K-9 Facebook page, they post videos of the canine training. These videos show different types of obedience training the officers and their canines go through during their training days. Some of the videos include tactical and group obedience training. The page posts pictures of the training as well. Communicating with the public is also through the Facebook page by posting videos, pictures, and updates on new dogs and retired dogs, along with other information.
Communication between the officer and his or her canine is different than most people would think. The dog’s commands are mostly in German, some are in English, and other dogs use Dutch commands. The dogs are trained on verbal commands and also hand signals. Mentz shared a few of the verbal commands he says to his canine Porter when conducting training. The verbal commands are: “Plotz,” which means down in German, “sitzen” (sit), “ferse” (heel), “bleiben” (stay), and “geeblaught” (give bark). He also said “seek” is an English command to search for articles. The K-9 handlers train together twice a month at the Cincinnati Police target range located in Evendale.
Also, there are a few organizations that some handlers become involved in to help them further train the dog and themselves, and the organizations give participants national accreditation. Mentz shared the two organizations that do this: United Stated Police Canine Association (USPCA) and the North America Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA).
The Cincinnati Police K-9 Unit is a local department in the greater Cincinnati area that has many contributing factors that lead to its success as a whole. According to Herbst and Foreman, “Budgets are tight, and K-9 units get cut first. But you can do searches very fast, much more accurately and much more successfully with a dog” (Heroes Among Us). Without the help from Toyota and The Matt Haverkamp Foundation, the CPD K-9 Unit would not be able to successfully do its job and keep our community safe. Budgeting in this economy is especially difficult, so the CPD K-9 Unit is extremely grateful for the extra help it receives from other organizations.
The Matt Haverkamp Foundation has additional information located on their Facebook page, “The Matt Haverkamp Foundation,” and Twitter account “@tmhf_k9.” They also have a phone number: (513) 741-1785. The K-9 unit has an active Facebook page, “Cincinnati Police K-9 Unit.” The K-9 unit shares an office with the traffic unit, which means there is one number for the office. The phone number for the traffic unit is 352-2514. People can leave a message for K-9 officers at that number. These organizations do an amazing job of helping the Cincinnati Police K-9 Unit when they are in need of extra help. The K-9 unit is also giving back to the foundation by attending and participating in their fundraising opportunities. The canines that are donated contribute greatly in helping the K-9 unit successfully do their jobs along with keeping our city safe.