Giving criminals ‘paws’

Officer Michael Combs and Ygor, a 16-month-old, Belgian Malinois, make up the London Police Department’s first K-9 unit.

(Posted Nov. 26, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Officer Michael Combs and an energetic dog whose name means “warrior of peace” are making history as the London Police Department’s first K-9 unit.

“Ygor,” a 16-month-old Belgian Malinois, spent five weeks at Gold Shield Canine Training in Blacklick, Ohio, before joining Combs for another six weeks of handler training. The duo earned certification from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy on Nov. 8.

“This is something I’ve felt the city has needed for a long time,” said Combs, a 10-year member of London’s police force.

London Mayor Patrick Closser and Police Chief Glenn Nicol thought so, too, and pushed to make it happen.

“We knew that it would be a great asset for the city,” Closser said.

Nicol said a K-9 unit enhances the department’s response capabilities, from crowd control and deterrence to detection of illegal substances.

“It’s another tool for us,” he said.

Ygor is trained to sniff out drugs, conduct building, area and article searches, track missing persons, and apprehend suspects. Combs is trained to issue commands–in Czech, Dutch, German and English–and interpret Ygor’s responses to stimuli in various scenarios.

The partnership requires a close bond, one the team initiated during training and will strengthen in ongoing weekly trainings, on the job, and even off the job.

“The dog comes home with me,” Combs said. “He gets along with my other dog (a 9-year-old Weimaraner) and with my family even better.”

Combs said Ygor knows the difference between work and play.

“He has a more focused demeanor in the cruiser. At home, his tongue is always hanging out and he’s breathing hard, wanting to play all the time.”

The department conducted a selection process to determine who would be named to the K-9 unit as Ygor’s handler. Several officers applied.

“It was a tough decision,” Nicol said. “It’s also a big commitment for Officer Combs and his family.”

Combs said he welcomes the commitment, proud that he and Ygor are a first for the department.

“I’m very glad to have him as a companion and a partner,” he said.

The cost to establish London’s K-9 unit was approximately $64,500–$14,500 for the dog and training and $50,000 to purchase and equip a cruiser. Using money confiscated in Ohio State Highway Patrol drug busts, the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office covered the expenses to outfit the cruiser. City capital budget funding covered the remaining costs.

The K-9 unit is not only an asset to London, Nicol said, but is available on a mutual aid basis to other agencies. Combs and Ygor have already assisted with a building search during a lock-down drill at Tolles Career and Technical Center in Plain City.

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