The Deer Park Police Department recently announced the addition of new K9 Officer Roni. The German short-haired pointer, who specializes in narcotics, and handler Officer Joel Nitchman will hit the streets this month. Nitchman said he is excited to be tabbed as the department’s next K9 handler and have a tough act to follow.
The only thing new K9 Officer Roni wants is for Deer Park Police Officer Joel Nitchman to give him his tennis ball. If Roni earns his ball, that means marijuana and narcotics have been removed from Deer Park streets.
This month, Nitchman and Roni will become the next K9 unit pair in DPPD. They will join current Officer Eddie Pereira and Ty.
Roni (pronounced row-nee) was born in Hungary and is a one-year-old German short-haired pointer. His purchase was made possible through funds from the Crime Control and Prevention District.
“For Roni, his reward is his tennis ball. When they trained him, he associates the tennis ball with the reward for finding the odor of narcotics,” Nitchman said.
When it comes to work, sniffing out narcotics is a game for Roni. Trainers seek out high-driven, reward-driven dogs, he said.
Nitchman said the department was hoping to obtain a highly sociable dog that was driven and not easily distracted.
“He’s for the community. We got exactly what we wanted (with Roni),” he said. “Roni is just right.”
Nitchman said he and the dog clicked instantly.
“The moment he came off the leash he gave me a big puppy hug and wouldn’t let go. From then, he was always at my side,” he said. “I always had dogs growing up and he reminded me of my dogs because he was so friendly.
“Then I saw him work.”
Nitchman said the work relationship between he and Roni is still growing.
“When ever he comes out of the car, he wants to work. His drive is through the roof. You don’t have to do anything to get him interested in working. As a new handler, I don’t have to worry. That allows me to concentrate on what I’m supposed to do,” he said.
This is Nitchman’s first K9 assignment in law enforcement.
“I’m green. Roni is green, so we’re growing up together in that aspect,” he said. “Our relationship is from scratch. He never had a prior handler. All of his experience is with me. This is all new.”
Once Roni’s training is complete, he will be certified to sniff out cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, ecstasy and heroine. Nitchman said Roni has already hit on those odors in training.
Becoming a K9 handler quickly became a professional goal for Nitchman after he worked with Pereira and Ty.
“My first year working with Eddie, he showed me how great it can be,” he said. “I have always been a proactive officer. Drug enforcement is big for me. I am also big on DWI. I’m so fortunate that I was chosen for this position.”
After Nitchman and Roni’s training is complete, they will hit the streets, giving DPPD two K9 units.
“We still have a long way to go. I feel like Roni and I have a good relationship, but Eddie and Ty are on a whole other level. That comes from time, experience and working hard. It’s amazing to watch them work together,” he said.
Following in Ty’s paw prints will not be easy. Since 2014, Ty and Pereira are responsible for the seizure of more than 42.5 grams of powder cocaine, 2.4g of rock cocaine, 6.23g of heroin, 3,091.31g of marijuana, 240.78g MDMA, 341.56g of methamphetamine, 585.73g of other contraband and $75,410 in suspected narcotics-related cash.
Nitchman said that it was important for the department to find a social animal that could represent the department in the community.
“I think I said when I interviewed for this position that this would be the community’s dog. We want to be out and about. When there’s things we can do, we want to do them. If some one wants to pet Roni when we’re not working, that’s A-OK with me,” he said.
Nitchman said the training has been rigorous and he amazed and excited about Roni’s ability.
“Sometimes we work a scenario that’s really tough and we’ll work it through. When he alerts on that odor, it’s an awesome feeling. I get so excited for him.”
Should Roni complete his training on time, Nitchman said the team will be street-ready Feb. 9.