YOUNGSTOWN - If cardio training and shooting ranges help police officers prepare for situations they face, then events like this week's K-9 workshop are equally critical for their four-legged partners.
Hosted at a number of sites around the area, including the Canfield Fairgrounds and the Our Lady Of The Woods Pastoral Center in Youngstown, the three-day Mahoning County Sheriff's Office K-9 Workshop gathered 50 officers and their K-9 partners from across Ohio.
Officers and K-9s will be in the area until Thursday, rotating at sites to gain experience in problem solving, suspect tracking and building searches to aggression training and handling bulk narcotic finds.
Before training Tuesday, officers gathered at the Mahoning County minimum security jail for an education session, which featured a talk by Dr. Aaron Tangeman of the Mahoning Valley Veterinary Centre. Tangeman's presentation focused on first-aid treatment for K-9 officers injured in the line of duty.
Workshop supervisor Liberty Patrolman Ray Buhala spoke about the benefits of the event.
"We wanted to host a workshop and go through a number of different scenarios that the dogs would see on the street," said Buhala. "Officers have to get 16 hours of training a month with their (K-9 officers), and many of the people here are training as much as eight hours a week."
Our Lady of the Woods at 4762 Logan Way were training was held Tuesday previously was home to Youngstown Catholic Diocese Bishops Thomas Tobin and George V. Murry, before Murry relocated to be closer to the city in 2009.
Buhala said he was appreciative that the diocese allows officers to use the now vacated facility for testing because its layout allows for various training scenarios.
"When you're going into houses in the neighborhoods you work in, you never know what each place is going to look like. Because (Our Lady of the Woods) has a number of tight and open areas, as well as big staircases, we can get our dogs familiar with a lot of (living spaces)," Buhala said.
Niles police officer Todd Mobley and K-9 Pino also was pleased with the location.
"We can (train indoors), as well as use the woods behind the property for outdoor scenarios like (suspect) locating," Mobley said.
While many of the scenarios that officers and their K-9 partners practice may not always happen on the streets, Buhala said officers must always be ready.
"Nine times out of 10, a criminal will see a K-9 officer as a deterrent and they'll stop," Buhala said. "But we need to make sure that the one person (who does not stop) will wish that they had."