Middletown will soon have the county’s biggest K-9 unit. Here’s why they’re growing it.

Middletown, which already has two police dogs and one accelerant detection canine, will add three more police canines this year.

The police department retired two canine officers recently, and three canines started their 12-week training this week. Once the dogs have completed training at the Middletown Division of Police K-9 Academy, Maj. David Birk said the city plans to have a canine on duty at all times.

When the three canines join the force, Middletown will have the largest canine unit in the county. The Butler County Sheriff’s Office has four canines, Fairfield has three, West Chester has two and Hamilton, Monroe and Oxford each have one, according to police officials.

Middletown Chief Rodney Muterspaw and City Manager Doug Adkins have credited the K-9 unit for reducing crime and drug overdoses in the city by getting drugs off the street. Heroin overdoses dropped 49 percent in Middletown last year as the city’s total dipped to its lowest level of overdoses and deaths in three years. Middletown’s had 493 heroin overdoses and 53 deaths in 2018 compared to 966 heroin overdoses, of which 77 were fatal, in 2017.

“These canines give a great additional tool to our officers to combat crime in Middletown,” Birk said. “They are valued members of our department.”

The dogs will be handled by police officers Gary Bender, Evan Mosley and Lindsey Schwarber.

Bender will handle Battle, a 1-year-old German Shepherd; Mosley will handle Maui, a 1-year-old German Shepherd; and Schwarber will handle Maverick, a 1-year-old Malinois, according to the department.

Bender, 37, has 12 years police experience; Mosley, 30, has been on the force for three years; and Schwarber, 29, has been a police officer for two years, according to police records.

They will join Denny Jordan and Tony Gibson and their canines, Koda and Bear.

The three new dogs are from Germany, and each costs $8,000. Of the $24,000, fundraisers from the Fraternal Order Police Auxiliary, Moose Lodge and Riders for Life generated $16,000, officials said. The remaining $8,000 will come out of the police department’s budget.

Two of the department’s canines, Chase and Aki, have retired and will remain at home with their handlers, Ryan Morgan and Marco Caito.

In 2017, Middletown’s Division of Fire became the first department in the region to have an accelerant detection canine officer. Scottie, a Labrador retriever from the Animal Friends Humane Society, is handled by firefighter Chris Klug.

The canine is named in honor of a fallen Middletown firefighter, Scott D. Bruggeman, who died in 2016 after battling health issues for two years.

Because of his keen sense of smell that was trained, Scottie can detect 15 different possible accelerants used in a fire faster than humans or traditional equipment, Klug said. He has also been trained to detect accelerants even days after the fire started.

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