Mayfield Heights Police Officer Mike King and Maverick are the department’s first working K-9 unit since 2014. (Submitted)
As a longtime K-9 handler, Mayfield Heights Police Chief Anthony Mele recognizes the impact working police dogs can have on a department.
That’s a major reason why Mele is so happy the department is adding a K-9 unit for the first time since 2014.
The new K-9 is a 1-year-old Belgian Malinois named Maverick. He comes from the Czech Republic and was trained at Shallow Creek Kennels in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.
The K-9 handler will be Patrolman Mike King.
Maverick will be officially sworn in at the Mayfield Heights City Council meeting on May 8.
“Mayfield Heights PD has had a few police working dogs dating back to the 1970s. I was a K-9 handler for eight years with the department, so I know firsthand what a valuable tool they are,” said Mele. “K -9 Maverick is currently our only police K-9. I hope to expand the program in the coming years. It has been nine years since our department had a service dog. We retired two dogs back in 2014 and neither was replaced at that time.”
Mele said that because their sense of smell far exceeds what a human can detect, K-9s can be invaluable to police work, and mainly the dog is a locating tool for finding drugs and tracking down fleeing suspects.
King, who trained for six weeks with Maverick, finishing basic handler school April 28 at Shallow Creek Kennels, echoed Mele’s comments about the importance of a K-9 unit.
“I’ve seen Maverick, in training, locate decoys/possible suspects and narcotics in places I wouldn’t normally think to look,” King said. “He will be a valuable asset to the department for years to come.”
King and Maverick are certified through the State of Ohio as well as the North American Police Work Dog Association. In addition, they will have continued training, annual recertification and monthly maintenance training for the remainder of Maverick’s career.
Mele said the training for King was demanding and intense and is an ongoing process, but a necessary tool.
“These dogs are highly trained and very intelligent,” Mele said. “They come from bloodlines that have the desired drives that we look for in a working dog. Like any tool on our guard belt, the officer must have complete control over the K-9, which takes a lot of training. It all starts with obedience training.”
While the addition of Maverick will help the department in several important areas of police work, he will be almost as valuable in the community, according to both Mele and King.
“Public relations is a big part of a successful K-9 program in Mayfield Heights,” Mele said. “The police K-9 is a goodwill ambassador for the police department. In the past, our dogs regularly participated in K-9 demonstrations and went into classrooms to meet students. It’s a great way for our officers to build relationships with kids.
“Now more than ever, it is extremely important that police officers make every effort to connect with the citizens of their communities,” he added. “A police K-9 is a great way to make that happen.”
King said public appearances are a big part of the K-9 program and the community will respond well to interacting with Maverick.
“I feel Maverick will help connect members of our department with the community,” King said. “Maverick will make many public appearances throughout his career at demonstrations, with two major appearances being our annual Unity Days and our First Responders Night out. We look forward to showing Maverick to our residents and giving them the opportunity to interact with him. “
King hopes that he and Maverick are just the beginning of things to come.
“Maverick and I are very fortunate to have the support of our department, our community and for my family to have the opportunity to serve in this capacity,” King said. “I am grateful to be chosen to bring the K-9 program back to our department and hope to help it grow in the future.”