By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
For more than a year now, Bowling Green Police Division has been meeting citizens over cups of hot coffee. On Friday, they tried something different – meeting them over bowls of ice cream, with chocolate sauce and sprinkles on top.
“This is bigger than the Coffee with the Cops,” said Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick as he looked out over the room at the Wood County District Public Library, full of children eating ice cream and wearing police badge stickers.
“We’re making you all honorary policemen today,” the chief told them.
Police officers posed for photos with kids holding their bowls of ice cream. They answered questions about their jobs. Deputy Chief Justin White said he did not get the usual, “Have you shot somebody” question today.
In fact, most of the questions were not about the two-legged officers, but about their four-legged canine officer named Arci.
“He’s going to make an appearance,” assured Hetrick.
The goal was to make the kids more comfortable around police officers in their community.
“We’re here to help,” said Lt. Brad Biller. “The police officers in the community are here to serve them, not to be feared by them.”
The officers have visited the library in the past to read to kids, but this visit was a little different.
“We’ve invited the police officers before, but we’ve never thought of combining it with ice cream,” children’s librarian Maria Simon said. “What a great idea.”
The ice cream, combined with the location, drew in a different and larger crowd, Lt. Dan Mancuso said.
“We were trying to get other people,” not just the normal coffee crowd, Mancuso said. “It’s summertime, kids like ice cream.” And the long-term benefit may be more than the bowl of ice cream. “So if there are problems, they feel comfortable coming to us.”
The hit of the day proved to be Arci, the Belgian Malinois canine cop. His handler, Sgt. Gordon Finger, said Arci is trained for several different jobs like sniffing out narcotics, tracking people, searching for missing people, and apprehending people.
Arci, who responds to commands primarily in Dutch, loves to work, Finger said.
“Work is his life’s blood,” he said. “His favorite part of the day is when he sees me getting ready for work.”
“When I take a shower, he’s standing staring at the door, waiting for me to get out,” Finger said.
Gordon placed a container that previously held drugs in the courtyard area at the library, and Arci demonstrated how he identifies the presence of narcotics.
Though Arci may be a tough cop on the job, at home he adores the family’s other dog, an 8-pound “schnoodle.”
“He sleeps right beside me at home,” Gordon said.
But on the job, he’s all business.
“He doesn’t bite anyone that I don’t want him to,” Gordon said, noting Arci’s protective nature. “I’m his pack master.”