An iconic officer with the Marion Police Department was celebrated this week as he approaches retirement after nearly nine years on the force.
K9 officer Lt. Six has been a member of MPD since November 2013. The Dutch Shepherd began his career alongside Lt. Mark Elliott at the age of two and is the longest-serving K9 in the history of the department.
“Six has contributed in more ways than you can really count,” Marion Police Chief Jay McDonald said during a retirement party for Six held on Tuesday. “He obviously is an outstanding asset for the agency as far as the police work that he’s done, but I think what even goes beyond that is the work that he’s done in the community and helps officers have the ability to have an interaction with a citizen that might not normally occur.
“When any of our K9s are out, but specifically Six, it enables us to have that conversation because that dog is an immediate bridge between the officer and the citizen. The positive interactions we’ve had because of Six and Lt. Elliott, you can’t count the number of positive interactions they’ve had. It’s been a blessing to have all of our K9s, but specifically Six.”
Lt. Elliott said Six, now 11 years old, has been a loyal and trustworthy partner throughout his career with the Marion Police Department.
“Part of the reason for his name is the military term for watching my six (back), and he does that every day,” Lt. Elliott said. “There are certain calls that are two-man calls for us and I’m comfortable going on two-man calls because I have him with me. He gives us an extra body on the street, whether it’s a person or a dog, it’s an extra body. He protects me. He protects the other officers. He’s done that several times. When he’s on the street, he does his job. He finds bad guys as good as anyone. He tracks. He bites.”
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On a personal level, Lt. Elliott said that Six has become a beloved member of his family and will remain a family pet in his retirement.
“He is so good at both sides of his life,” Lt. Elliott said. “He plays with my kids at home. He is so good with them. If I go somewhere and my wife stays home, he stays with her. I don’t have to board him or lock him up if I’m not home. My youngest says he’s her dog. They all love him. We have another dog in the house, too. We adopted a retired K9 two years ago. It’s a lifestyle for our whole family.”
In a display of the respect that Six and Lt. Elliott have garnered during the past nine years together, nearly two dozen fellow K9 officers from law enforcement agencies around central Ohio attended the retirement party on Tuesday.
“People talk about the thin blue line — that’s all police officers,” Lt. Elliott said. “You have just about every K9 officer in central Ohio here right now. That’s how few of us there really are. We’re a family and we take care of each other.”
Chief McDonald praised Lt. Elliott for his expertise in both handling Six and building relationships in the local community and the region.
“Lt. Elliott has a unique ability to be completely absorbed in the K9 community, as you can see from the other K9 officers from around central Ohio who are here,” he said. “Those connections and the participation he has with those people will benefit our agency. But beyond that, he never says ‘no.’ He goes to every community event, comes in on days off to do these things. His whole family is invested in this project, in this program. It’s really, really an extreme benefit to the agency to have somebody so committed. It’s really wonderful.”
Lt. Elliott will remain part of the K9 unit after Six retires and is in the process of selecting a new dog to join the department. It’s a tough process because of the high level of performance Six established during his career. MPD is once again working with Storm Dog Tactical in Sunbury, which is the company who found and trained Six.
“Our trainer has gotten some dogs in, I didn’t like some of them and he didn’t like some of them, so we’re talking about it,” Lt. Elliott said. “It’s just a matter of finding the right one. We’ve been spoiled because (Six) can do everything we ask him to do.”
Six was the first K9 the Marion Police Department purchased from Storm Dog Tactical. Many central Ohio law enforcement agencies use the company to find and train dogs, Lt. Elliott said.
Chief McDonald said MPD is “very, very close to having all the funds” needed to purchase the new K9. He said the estimated cost to acquire and train the dog is more than $20,000.
“The Marion K9 Project is going to contribute a big chunk of that,” Chief McDonald said. “Other events that we’ve done over time have enabled us to amass some of that money to help put that funding over the edge. So we’re ready to go.”
Chief McDonald said he hopes to have a new K9 in place later this year.
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