Budget cuts have taken the bite out of Barney, Northwood’s crime-fighting
Like most communities across the country, the city is struggling with a deep recession that has not yet lost its grip. The city cut costs to balance its budget, including two full-time officers, and Barney, a six-and-a-half-year-old shepherd that was purchased with a homeland security grant six years ago.
“Due to budgetary cutbacks, we can’t afford him anymore,” said Police Chief Tom Cairl.
The news caught Barney’s handler, Patrolman Fred Genzman, by surprise.
“It was a shock. I can’t complain because people are losing their full-time jobs. But it’s still a shock. He’s got three, maybe four good years left in him,” said Genzman, who’s been on the force for eight years.
When Genzman became Barney’s handler five-and-a-half years ago, he considered the job a plum assignment “an adventure of a lifetime.”
Barney, who is half German Shepherd and half Czechoslovakian Shepherd, is trained in several disciplines, including obedience, tracking, article search, building search, area search, explosives and bite work.
“I have to keep him up to date on everything,” said Genzman.
Barney, whose last day is Dec. 21, accompanies Genzman everywhere.
“He lives with me. He’s a member of the family. When we go to work, he’s a member of the police department,” he said.
The city’s annual costs for Barney, who is certified every two years by the state, include $300 for dog food, $200 for veterinary care, $132 for Genzman’s canine pager, and $2,000 to replace explosive materials for training as well as costs to send someone to Arkansas to pick them up, according to Chief Cairl, who is sorry to see Barney go.
“Barney did an excellent job for us. I wish the economy hadn’t gone south so we could keep him on,” said Cairl.
He also praised Genzman as Barney’s handler.
“He did a marvelous job,” said Cairl.
Barney was good for public relations. Students and seniors asked to see him “quite a bit,” said Cairl.
In fighting crime, Barney definitely earned his keep, said Genzman.
Like the time when two youths had broken into cars at a trailer park.
“I knew they were going to run. They were younger. All I did was put the back windows down and fired Barney up. You’re not going to outrun a dog. So they just froze,” said Genzman. “One of the kids said, `They had to have the K-9 when we were doing this.’”
Barney also caught car thieves.
Recently, he nabbed the driver of a U-Haul stolen out of Toledo.
“We happened to be in the area when it fled up I-280, and we followed it into East Toledo. One of the guys ended up leaving the truck by Tony Packos. As we pulled up, we saw the guy running. Barney got deployed, and gave pursuit. As soon as he reached the fence, the guy knew he wasn’t going to win and put his hands up. Barney reacted, but didn’t bite him. He kind of slid into him and knocked him down,” said Genzman.
Barney also helped clear locations that were part of the itinerary of presidential and vice presidential candidates last year, including Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John McCain, and Sarah Palin, said Genzman.
“We cleared the hotels, cars, a lot of behind the scenes things that other officers never have the opportunity to do. We did them all,” he said.
Mutual aid agreements also took the pair to locations as far as Sandusky to the east, and Findlay to the south.
“Life flight transports us if it’s long distance and we need to get there quickly,” said Genzman.
Barney’s transition to civilian life won’t be too difficult, said Genzman, since he’s also the family pet.
“He’s great,” said Genzman. “When he’s home, it’s literally like flipping a switch. My wife can’t understand how he could be so assertive. He’s not passive, but he’s friendly at home.”
So friendly, in fact, that his 4 ½ and 2-year-old sons learned how to walk by pulling themselves up on his fur.
“It had to hurt. But he just let them stand up, then he walked away,” said Genzman.
Barney’s absence will be a loss to police, he said.
“When I started, there were two bomb dogs in the area. Today, we’re the only one. The closest bomb dogs are in Cleveland or Lima,” he said.
Genzman said he will miss having Barney on patrol.
Would he do it again?
“In a heartbeat. I had opportunities that other officers never have.”