Gastonia Police Department’s K-9 Unit has a new dog and handler

Officer Alex Burns and K-9 Rico during training to meet U.S. Police Canine Association standards.
New K-9 Rico in criminal apprehension training

The Gastonia Police Department has purchased a new K-9 and selected a new handler for an opening in its K-9 Unit. K-9 Rico, a 1½-year-old-Belgian Malinois from Ventosa Kennel in Scotland Neck, NC, and new handler, Officer Alex Burns, have joined the unit following the retirement of 9½-year-old K-9 Taz and the promotion of Officer Casey Justice to Patrol sergeant.

“We certify our dogs through the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA), which is based out of St. Louis, Missouri,” said Sgt. Thomas Doby who serves as GPD’s K-9 Unit coordinator. “Rico has gone through a 12 to 14 week school while being trained by our Training Officer Jason Eaker. He is trained in narcotics, criminal apprehension, tracking, building searches, article searches, and obedience.”

There are six dogs in GPD’s K-9 Unit, one Malinois and five German Shepherds. Both breeds are widely used in law enforcement across the country due to their versatility.

“We picked a Malinois this time simply because he was the best dog available,” Sgt. Doby said. “We look between Malinois and Shepherds, and we try to get the best dog we can get. Officer Eaker and I look at the dog and the handler and see what’s going to be the best match and best dog for that handler.

“I expect a lot of great things out of them,” Sgt. Doby said. “Alex has a lot of drive and Rico is turning out to be a very solid dog that’s going to have a good temperament, but be able to do his job as well. He’s a very sociable dog and has a lot of drive, a lot of work ethic, and I think they’re going to do very well.”