By Karen Hall
Lewisburg's newest police officer was welcomed here this week, but will be leaving again after Labor Day for five weeks of training in Indiana.
Roccon, a two-year-old German shepherd, will be accompanied by his police partner, Officer Clyde Ragsdale.
The dog is spending a week here with his new human friends before going back to Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, Ind., for training with his officer that will bond them as a highly effective law-enforcement team.
The training has to include language skills. Roccon was born and raised in Holland, and trained there before being imported in February this year. Ragsdale was send home with a card translating English commands into Dutch, but clearly he and Roccon will have to come to an agreement on the language they'll be using.
Police Chief Chuck Forbis made the seven-hour drive to Indiana with Ragsdale to select the dog and bring him back.
Representatives from a number of other law enforcement agencies were there, Forbis said, and they saw eight or 10 dogs demonstrate their skills in drug detection, attack and obedience. Forbis and Ragsdale narrowed the choice to Roccon and one other. Another agency got to pick first, and when they chose the other dog, the two men knew Roccon was theirs.
"We've been considering getting a police dog for several years," said Forbis. "For the last three months we've been looking hard." The chief went on to say that Ragsdale has been on the force for a little over four years, and has expressed interest in being a K-9 officer right from the start. He credits Ragsdale with doing a lot of the research on getting a dog.
"I know we'll put him to good use," Forbis said. "We certainly have a need in this area," he continued, remembering a nighttime incident last year when an armed suspect fled on foot into a wooded area, putting officers' lives at risk as they searched for him.
Ragsdale's research led them to the Indiana kennel that has supplied trained dogs to over 5,000 law enforcement and government agencies since it was founded in 1993 by U. S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Licklider.
According to the Indiana kennel's Web site, Vohne Liche has 18 on-site trainers, and 600 acres of land. At any one time, there are over 150 dogs on the property, housed in state-of-the-art kennels. Many of the dogs have been imported. Countries of origin of some of the dogs currently for sale are listed as Holland, Germany, Hungary and Turkey. All are guaranteed for health and soundness, and if an officer-canine pairing does not work out, Vohne Liche will exchange the dog, no questions asked.
Forbis admits Roccon cost $12,500, but states the money came from the drug fund: fines collected when defendants in drug cases plead guilty or are convicted.
Vohne Liche Kennels has a sideline in constructing and selling special trailers for canine transport, but Roccon won't need one. He'll travel in the back of Ragsdale's police car. It will be marked to indicate there is a K-9 aboard, and will also be equipped with a remote control door opener. The dogs are trained to know that one door of the car is for regular loading and unloading, but when the other door is opened by remote control, it's time to leap out, ready for action.
Roccon will live with Ragsdale and his family.