Locust Police welcomes its newest officer, a K-9 named Rico

Published 5:03 pm Wednesday, October 27, 2021

A new four-legged police officer officially joined the Locust Police Department last week following a contest in which students at Locust Elementary got to choose his name.

K-9 officer Rico began his first day on duty with his handler Cpl. Dwayne Dietz last Friday, according to a press release from the department on Wednesday. The other four names the students voted on were Duke, Cash, Bo and Jag.

First grader Gavin Leclerc was the student who offered the name as a possibility for the new officer and was awarded with a special prize package.

Rico is a 13-month-old male chocolate Labrador Retriever originally from the Netherlands.

“We are extremely excited about the addition of Rico and all the benefits he will bring to our department in his crime-fighting abilities but also in building relationships with the Locust community and children in our community,” said Police Chief Jeff Shew. “Rico will no doubt be the most popular officer to ever work at the Locust Police Department and will likely be the ‘featured attraction’ of Locust Police Department community events for years to come.”

K-9 Rico with students from Locust Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Jeff Shew.

The Locust City Council approved for the police department to move ahead and start its own K-9 program during its meeting in May.

The department purchased Rico from Ventosa Kennel, a police K-9 training facility, in Scotland Neck, just north of Rocky Mount. He was also trained by Ventosa Kennel and Dietz joined him for the last five weeks to maximize their training in Rico’s specializations, according to the press release.

The dog will be working the same schedule as  Dietz, which is about 14 days a month.

K-9 Rico and his handler Cpl. Dwayne Dietz. Photo courtesy of Jeff Shew.

“Training and working with Rico has been an outstanding experience,” Dietz said. “For a dog that’s only 13 months, he is incredibly obedient and listens well. He loves tracking and is really good at narcotics detection but is continuing to improve. He also loves kids and I really enjoyed bringing him to the school to meet the students. I plan to make that a regular occurrence to build good relationships with the kids. I look forward to working with Rico for as long as I can.”

Rico is a “no-bite” K-9 that specializes in drug and article search/detection as well as tracking searches for victims and suspects. The dog is trained to spot drugs such as opioids, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

Before it acquired Rico, the department had to contact other agencies for K-9 assistance and the dogs were not always available. Starting a K-9 program of its own gives LPD more control and flexibility over its operations.

Retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Sgt. Brian Russell, who helped create the department’s K-9 program in the 1990s and has worked with dogs the majority of his career, will supervise the in-house training of the retriever, which generally consists of about eight hours of remedial training a month.

The initial start-up cost for the dog is about $20,798, which includes training and up-fitting Dietz’s vehicle. The annual program cost would be about $5,000, which would cover food, veterinarian bills and equipment.

With the addition of Rico, Locust is now the fourth law enforcement agency in the county to have a K-9 program, behind Stanly County Sheriff’s Office, Stanfield Police and Oakboro Police, which added its own K-9 program earlier this year.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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