Being a canine handler runs in this Fairfield officer’s family

Sam Larsh was raised to be a handler for a police department’s K-9 unit.

The father of the 31-year-old Fairfield police officer was a canine handler for the Forest Park Police Department, handling three police dogs over his career.

“My dad was a police officer, so I got a lot of exposure to that growing up,” said Larsh, who’s been on the Fairfield force for three years. He’s in his second week as a canine handler.

And growing up with his dad, Jeffrey, who is now a part-time park ranger with the city of Fairfield after retiring from Forest Park, he would see first-hand how canine officers would be trained.

“Being able to see at a young age what the dogs were able to do as a tool for police departments was pretty cool,” he said. “Then, as a police officer, getting to see dogs being used as locating tools and obviously narcotics detection and the incredible asset that they are.”

Larsh’s partner is K-9 officer Scout, a black German shepherd and dual-purposed trained dog. Scout is trained to detect methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana, and is trained for patrol, which includes tracking and apprehension.

Though Larsh is pleased to have been chosen for the assignment, he said he does “feel a weight on my shoulders” being added to the K-9 unit team as it’s the first time the city’s had three active unites.

“It’s just obviously the department sees that it’s beneficial to have dogs on the department and obviously the city agrees with that,” Larsh said.

City Council authorized the addition of a third canine unit when it OK’d a resolution earlier this year for department heads to move forward on capital projects. The expense for the city was estimated to be $15,500.

Police Chief Mike Dickey said there is a growing need for the unit.

Larsh joins Officer John Cresap and his partner, Canaan, and Officer John Vinskey and his partner, Koda. This gives the city 24-hour coverage with a K-9 unit because the demand had increased in recent years.

Cresap and Vinskey had in 2015 nearly 2,900 calls for activity, which vary from traffic stops to tracking missing people and criminal suspects. While it’s hard to determine how much work Larsh and Scout will have, Larsh said his partner has been deployed 25 to 30 times over his first eight shifts as a handler all within the city and primarily for narcotic searches.