El Dorado Police Officer Ethan Herrick has always known he wanted to be a K-9 handler and with the support of the police chief and deputy chief, he made that dream a reality this year.
“I’ve always wanted to be a K-9 handler since I was a little boy,” said Officer Herrick. “I’ve always just loved dogs. In early 2019, I graduated the academy and fell in love with law enforcement and the patrol side.”
After starting with the El Dorado Fire Department, then briefly moving to Augusta Public Safety, where he could experience police work, Officer Herrick decided to apply for an opening at the El Dorado Police Department in 2021.
In early 2022, he inquired about getting a K-9. He was told to write a proposal and do research on the cost and time frame to get a dog.
“We looked at the proposal to see if there was a need and the answer was yes,” Deputy Chief Jeff Murphy said. They wanted a dual-purpose dog for narcotics and missing persons, as well as article searches. Rico, who is a three-year-old Belgian Malinois from Holland, fit those needs.
To pay the costs for the dog and training, Officer Herrick reached out to local businesses for donations and applied for and received the Tim Underwood Memorial Grant. Once everything was paid for, he traveled to Illinois for 10 weeks to be matched with a dog and for training.
One other need was a car to accommodate Rico, which Officer Herrick researched and got a grant for $8,000 to fund. The community also funded a vest for Rico in just five days through the group Keeping K-9s in Kevlar.
“It’s amazing to see the community rally together,” Officer Herrick said of the support they have received. “I’m appreciative of all of the community support from citizens and businesses.”
Since they have been back from training Officer Herrick and Rico have been hard at work. Rico has assisted in such things as a search for a missing autistic boy, an article search in a case and several drug sniffs. They also have provided assistance to surrounding agencies.
“Officer Herrick did this on his own,” Deputy Chief Murphy said. “Not only has he learned a new skill that he can hand down to someone, but he has more ownership in the program.”