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K-9 dog Aiko retires Meet Regional’s new police dog, Ringo, at next week’s Halloween parade
By: JACQUELINE WATSON Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
It was standing room only at the recent Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department awards ceremony. And this was no surprise as those recognized included retiring K-9 unit dog Aiko.
Twelve-year-old Aiko was lauded for eight years of service between NLCRPD and its predecessor Warwick Township Police Department.
NLCRPD Chief David Steffen joked about dog retirements being the way to get crowds of people to attend meetings.
"It was told to me one time by a guy that’s been around for a while that when you retire a cop you might have one or two people show up, but when you retire a dog, standing room only. We may have to buy a couple more dogs," he said.
"We’ve been blessed to have a loyal member of our organization that doesn’t say much and always does what he’s told, and that’s Aiko. He’s part of our team, and we’re proud of him," Steffen continued.
A stand-out moment of Aiko’s many years of service is hard to pinpoint as the amount of drugs and guns taken off the street, and the number of criminals he has helped to apprehend has continually increased over the years. Aiko’s partner, officer Gary Garrison, mentioned a time when Aiko located a man who had previously taken hostages. Another was when Aiko managed to withstand a beating and apprehend the perpetrator who had shot a police officer in a neighboring township.
"Every day, coming to work and having a partner like him … that’s always a highlight," commented Garrison.
The numerous benefits of a K-9 unit include the dog’s scenting ability. His nose allows him to track anything from illegal substances to missing children and elderly, to criminals at large. Another bonus is simply having the dog’s presence.
"His teeth, obviously, deter crime. His bark deters crime. The mere presence deters crime," Steffen noted.
"At the end of the day, we all try to come home (safe), and the dog helps us in doing so," Garrison added.
Steffen also pointed out that Aiko’s presence has been an important part of establishing positive relations between the police department and the community.
"If there’s one thing people do like, it’s a police dog; and if there’s one thing criminals hate, it’s a police dog; and if there’s one thing that you’re never going to get rid of once you have it, it’s a police dog," Steffen said.
Although Aiko loves his job and is still excited to go to work in the morning, Garrison pointed out that retiring him is the humane option at this point. Reasons for this include Aiko’s increased soreness at the end of the day and decreased speed. Aiko’s extra time to relax will be spent with the Garrison family at their home.
"It’s very difficult because it’s part of my life. He’s been a part of my life and always will be," Garrison said.
During the presentation of Aiko’s plaque at police headquarters in Clay Township, Garrison announced, "We’ve been successful wherever we’ve gone. He’s made me look better than I’ll ever make him look."
Aiko’s retirement does not mean local police will be left without a K-9 unit. A younger dog of Garrison’s will begin work for the NLCRPD shortly after Aiko finishes. The new dog, named Ringo, is a two-year-old with lots of energy. He’ll be marching with his fellow officers through downtown Lititz during the Oct. 29 Halloween parade. The community is urged to come out and cheer on our newest crime fighter.
Also retiring was Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Commissioner David Sarley. Sarley is a representative for Penn Township on the NLCRPD board of commissioners. His retirement is predicated on his plan to relocate to a different township. He was presented with a plaque in recognition of his assistance in forming and developing the NLCRPD.
Numerous awards were distributed in recognition of officers for exemplary service, as well as civilians for their contributions and service to the police department.
"It takes a lot more than just the police force to protect the lives and the property of our community. It takes the involvement of everybody, and the people like you who are in this room today are the absolute prime examples of the kind of people that help to keep our community safe," said NLCRPD board of commissioners chairman David Kramer.
Officers recognized with certificates and letters of commendation include:
Officers Matthew Hinkel, Curtis Ochs, Matthew Brindley, Gary Garrison and Detective Eric Zimmerman were all presented with letters of commendation for their investigation into a robbery.
Officer Theresa Stauffer was presented with a certificate and letter of commendation for her community service.
Sgt. Joshua Kilgore was awarded a certificate and letter of commendation for training and professional development.
Sgt. Rodney King was recognized with a certificate and letter of commendation for traffic safety programming and development.
Officer David Burdis was awarded a certificate and letter of commendation for his DUI enforcement and training.
Organizations and individuals recognized for their impact on the NLCRPD were the Lititz Rotary Club, Lancaster Bicycle Club, Lititz Lioness Club, Lynne and Hal Apel, Target in Warwick Township, Robert and Connie McKane, and the Northern Regional K-9 Support Team (which includes Linda and Moe Garrison, Abby Adams, Amanda Christman, Danielle Youndt, Judy Hall, Kim Erb, Nick Vendy, Rich Irons, Sherri Parson, and Amanda Ruhl). More AIKO RETIRES, page A18