MANTUA, Ohio- After a series of canine health-related deaths ended a Portage County police department's K-9 program, there is renewed hope it will be reinstated.
"Back in 2017 we lost K-9 Diablo," said Mantua Police Chief Joseph Urso. "Then this past summer, we lost K-9 Vader thus ending our K-9 program. No community should lose a program and not be able to reinstate it."
On Thursday, FOX 8 was invited to meet 2-year-old Ciko, a Belgian Malinois, and observe his rigorous training to become a certified police K-9 in Mantua.
Ciko was tasked with finding heroin, marijuana and ecstasy hidden in compartments throughout a building. He found the narcotics without fail during a series of searches.
The chief said Ciko will likely encounter drugs frequently as a full service K-9 on the force.
"Between meth, heroin, cocaine, shrooms, anything ecstasy, it never goes away. The drug problem is never going away," said the chief.
Urso said drug use is on the rise in the community. However, because of budget cuts in recent years, the department consists of 11 part time officers and a full time police chief. The chief said they used to have four full time officers.
Meanwhile, according to Urso, drug-related criminal arrests have increased 200 percent in the past three years.
When Ciko is certified, he will perform drug searches at the schools, in addition to being made available at neighboring police departments. The chief hopes Ciko will pass his certification test before Thanksgiving.
"It’s a good feeling to be able to come to work and do good for the community," Urso said.