TOBYHANNA TOWNSHIP — K-9 Niko and handler Corporal Matt Nero work together as a team at Pocono Mountain Regional Police. From narcotics searches, to tracking down suspects in Monroe County, the two work as one cohesive unit, through many stressful situations.
“We train for reality, I mean, we go out there and train and do obedience and do fun stuff, but the reality is, we put the badge on put the body armor on, we are going to be in position sometimes where we have to risk our life or the dog`s life,” said Nero.
Just this week, police said Niko took a punch to the face while chasing down suspect Jean Philogene in Coolbaugh Township after he had violated an order of protection and fled from police.
Nero said it’s nothing Niko wasn’t ready for.
“We`ll have people that will fight with the dog, and we train for that. That`s what they`re trained to do. They`re another tool in law enforcement that we use,” said Nero.
Police at Pocono Mountain Regional said the dogs are some of their hardest workers, going out on more than 1,000 calls in just the past few years.
Chief Harry Lewis said Niko, along with their other K-9 Unit Chase, helps keep his officers a little more safe.
“We have a large wooded area up here. A lot of times our suspects will flee into the woods and it`s a lot safer sending a K-9 into the woods to track them opposed to sending an officer,” said Chief Lewis.
Chase has gone through countless hours of training before hitting the road as well, but it’s something officer Joe Lotkowski said is worth every minute.
“Every day I come to work, I get to bring my best partner, friend. It`s fun, it`s enjoyable to come to work,” said Officer Lotkowski.
The K-9’s come at a cost and are funded entirely by donations through the Pocono Mountain Police Department Foundation. They’re a unit the department hopes to keep around for years to come.
“His job is to protect the unprotected. That’s what I always say, but he`s here for the community. He`s here for kids and it`s just a really neat feeling,” said Nero.