Tuesday's ceremony to swear in the city of Crystal's first K-9 officer transformed a dream that was 50 years in the making into reality.
When Officer Geoff Kusick joined the force, the Crystal Police Department didn't have a K-9 program -- but he started pushing for one. Now, he's the department's only handler.
The community came together to bring Rocco to town, and with a few simple words, Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering swore the dog in for duty.
"He's just a whole different level of intelligence," Kusick said.
Rocco and Kusick became joined at the hip four months ago.
"He's pretty attached to me and I'm pretty attached to him," Kusick admitted.
For 12 weeks, the two went through intensive training at St. Paul's K-9 Academy, and Kusick quickly became impressed by Rocco's drive and motivation.
"Part of that was not only training the dog what he's supposed to do, but what I'm supposed to do," Kusick recalled. "It was completely new for me."
K-9 officers are treated just like every other member of the force. They are used to track down suspects and are usually the first to face a dangerous situation.
"We've had situations already where we bring him out and you can tell the mood shifts and calms down," Kusick said.
Without donations from area businesses and citizens -- totaling $35,000 -- Revering says the department, which has been around since 1960, wouldn't have been able to bring Rocco in.
"It's a huge opportunity for us and the department and the citizens of Crystal," she said. "It's huge. It shows the vast support we needed for this program. It shows the community cares, and they wanted to help the police department."
Kusick told FOX 9 News that when he became an officer, his dream was to one day be a K-9 handler. Now, he admits being the very first officer in Crystal to do the job makes him both nervous and excited for the opportunity ahead.
"Kind of a precedent to set for the city and I want to make sure this program is successful and continues a long time for our agency," he said.
Rocco came to Crystal from Slovakia and is currently a year and a half old. Usually, K-9s remain on a police force for seven or eight years before retiring. If all goes well, Revering hopes the program will expand.
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