YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – St. Elizabeth Hospital in Youngstown now has its first K9 officer — one of just two hospitals in Ohio with a police dog. Police say the dog, who is trained in explosives and tracking down people, will provide extra security.
Maico and his partner, Officer Nicolas Ritchie, are fully certified by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.
It’s Maico’s first week on the job, so he’s still getting used to things. The pair started working together in January and now they have a rhythm.
“As soon as I open the door, he knows he’s going to get to do something, he’s ready to go,” Ritchie said.
Mercy Health Police Chief Ryan Bonacci said they wanted to give hospital staff, patients, visitors, and vendors an “extra layer of safety and security.”
“One of our biggest commitments is to ensure that when people come here, they only have to worry and focus about what’s going on inside the hospital.”
He said the 4-year-old dog imported from Holland is very driven.
“That’s what you want in a working dog. They’re not pets, they’re tools and anytime you have access to a K9, it’s an asset to your department and also the community.”
Maico is trained to find explosives and track suspects or missing persons.
“If we have a Code Adam or a missing patient, we’ll be able to track them and find them,” Bonacci said.
Ritchie said Maico can also search a large area.
“If someone would run and throw a gun or a knife, he would be able to come and track it down.”
Maico and Officer Ritchie can train in empty buildings when there’s down time.
“His explosive detection, you got to keep those sharp, in order, to have the tip of the spear quality dog that you want on a police department,” Ritchie said.
Maico can go inside the hospital but Ritchie doesn’t want him inside too much.
“In the event something does happen, he’s got to work, not go in there just to walk around,” he said.
So far, reaction to the new K9 is positive.
Bonacci said planning for a K9 officer started a year ago. Police dogs can be expensive, but he said support from leadership, the foundation, the women’s auxiliary, and fundraisers have been a big help.
Warren police even donated a kennel for the back of the cruiser, which is also outfitted with a temperature system inside so Maico doesn’t overheat.
There’s still a lot for Maico and Ritchie to learn, but Ritchie said they’ll make it happen.
“We want to be the team that’s always ready. If we get called for something, you can’t fail, you’re going to be searching for explosives.”
If you see Maico at Mercy Health, remember that he’s a working dog so you can’t just go up and pet him.