BEREA, Ohio — He has been on the job for only a few months, but already K-9 Officer Vader is making a difference in the Berea Police Department.
The 2-year-old German shepherd accompanies Officer Dennis Bort, an obvious Star Wars fan, as they carry out their law enforcement duties throughout the city. Born in Czechoslovakia, Vader passed his state certification tests in May. He trains with Bort at least 16 hours per month.
Bort introduced Vader to City Council at its Sept. 10 work session. He said Vader will have a productive police career for approximately five years.
“He’s trained to find heroin, methamphetamines, crack cocaine, marijuana and all their derivatives,” Bort explained. “He also does suspect tracking, article searches, building searches and apprehension. And he’s always watching my back.”
Bort and Vader currently work the night shift, patrolling the city from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. They also visit Berea-Midpark High School for a few days every week.
“The kids seem real receptive to it,” Bort said. “We’re hopefully preventing drugs from coming into the school. Vader is doing really, really great in trying to get drugs off the street.”
The Berea City Club donated $20,000 to acquire and train Vader. His medical needs are provided by Big Creek Pet Hospital.
“The City Club also helped us change the patrol car over to a canine car,” said Police Chief Joe Grecol. “We’re receiving a vest from the Cleveland Police Foundation, which received a grant. We’re in the process of getting that all set up.”
Vader’s tactical ballistic vest will weigh only 3 pounds and will have a mesh underlay so he doesn’t overheat.
“He’s hitting on about 60-70 percent of the cars that we run him around,” Bort said. “Then in the cars that we search, we’re finding drugs in about 90 percent of those. Once the dog alerts on the car, most people just show us the drugs.”
Due to privacy laws, however, Bort is not permitted to run Vader around individuals at public events to see if drugs are present.
Vader lives with Bort when not on duty.