LOCUST — Now in his second full year of duty serving the Locust Police Department’s canine unit, K-9 Rico will soon be sporting some new protective gear thanks to a charitable donation from the Vested Interest in K-9s non-profit organization.
The LPD announced that — in a delivery span of eight to ten weeks — its four-legged police officer will receive a bullet and stab protective vest sponsored by Robert Willens LLC of New York, NY, that will be embroidered with the words “Honoring those who served and sacrificed.”
Rico’s upcoming body armor shipment is U.S.-made, custom-fitted, NIJ-certified, and specifically designed to provide potentially life-saving technology to its wearer.
“We have been elated with the contributions that Rico has made to our department both in enforcement efforts and with community relationship building,” Locust Police Chief Jeff B. Shew said in a press release. “Rico is a vital member of our department, and we are so appreciative of Vested Interest in K-9s for their donation of body armor for Rico to help keep him safe during the course of duty. It’s an outstanding organization for what they do for law enforcement K-9s.”
Established 13 years ago, Vested Interest in K-9s, Inc. is a charity that aims to donate protective vests to dogs of law enforcement and related agencies throughout the country. It has provided over 4,970 vests to K-9s in all 50 states at a value of $6.9 million, thanks to a combination of private and corporate donations.
The program is open to U.S. dogs that are at least 20 months old and actively employed and certified in law enforcement.
Rico, now approaching his third birthday later this year, is a chocolate Labrador Retriever who was born in The Netherlands and joined the LPD back on Oct. 22, 2021. He was bought from the Ventosa Kennel training facility located in Scotland Neck, NC, and has since trained under handler Cpl. Dwayne Dietz as the first LPD K-9 member in over 15 years.
In Rico’s current role, he specializes in opioid, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine detection while also possessing an ability to track searches for victims and suspects with a high level of accuracy. He has participated in multiple community events, school field trips and presentations throughout the year as a public ambassador for the LPD — even serving as the 2022 Locust Christmas Parade Grand Marshall.
Last November, Rico was successful in tracking down a fleeing suspect from the Locust Walmart who was later charged with felony larceny, felony conspiracy, habitual larceny, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, first-degree trespass, and resisting a public officer. The 20-minute track and search led to Reed Mine Road, where Rico apprehended the suspect without incident.
Along with the Stanly County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 Luka, Stanfield Police Department’s K-9 Tango, and Oakboro Police Department’s K-9 Joker, Rico has become another vital member of Stanly County’s burgeoning K-9 police presence.