K-9 Officer Rico retires from the Lansing Police Department

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Officer Rico
Officer Rico has retired after about five years with the Lansing Police Department. (Photo from LPD Facebook page)
By Ajia Harris

LANSING, Ill. (January 17, 2022) – Officer Rico, the accomplished K-9 police dog that the Lansing Police Department grew to love, has retired.

Officer Rico was only a year-and-a-half old when he arrived at the Lansing Police Department in early 2017, when he became a friend and partner to Patrol Officer Keith Haan.

“He was younger than a couple of the other dogs. [The Lansing Police Department] liked that about him,” Officer Haan said. “We were hoping to get a lot of more years out of him.”

Officer Rico is retiring because he tore a tendon in his back left leg and has a partial tear in his right one, which veterinarians are currently reviewing. Officer Haan noticed that Rico was in pain when he had a hard time getting in and out of a patrol vehicle.

“We’re trying to get him back healthy so he can fully enjoy retirement. He’s showing some improvement, so it doesn’t look like he’s in pain too much,” Haan said.

Rico, a Belgium Malinois, is six years old.

Officer Rico starts with LPD

Officer Keith Haan stands with K-9 Officer Rico in 2019. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Arriving from Vohn Liche Kennel, a dog breeding location in Indiana known for its K-9 training, Officer Rico was considered a green dog — a dog that had basic training, Haan said. He soon received more thorough training.

“I had a six-week academy class with him. We trained for 40 to 50 hours, prior to going onto the street,” Haan said.

To be a K-9 handler, police officers must complete exams and meet certain qualifications which Haan did not mind doing, because he wanted to work with Officer Rico.

A typical day in the life of Officer Rico and Officer Haan could include locating and sniffing out narcotics in hotel rooms, building searches, tracking, helping other agencies outside of Lansing, and other tasks.

K-9 Officer Rico and Officer Haan participate in a demonstration on National Night Out on August 3, 2021:

An accomplished tenure

“Right before he retired, there was a car [driving away] from the police. The [person or people] ditched three guns in the alley and backyards; we helped locate those [guns]. That was probably a week before he retired,” Officer Haan said.

Another of Rico’s accomplishments was helping LPD find people inside of buildings, which ultimately helped with peaceful surrenders. Haan said Rico’s biggest accomplishment was finding 15 pounds of marijuana in a car. He also helped locate items left behind in an armed robbery.

“It’s hard to pick and choose [his best accomplishments], but there’s been a lot of successes, including helping to get drugs off the streets,” Haan said. “He’s helped us quite a lot. It’s fun watching him work.”

Officer Keith Haan (approaching) demonstrated to Lansing residents in 2019 how K-9 Officer Rico was trained to bite and hang on to his suspect until a human officer arrives to place the suspect in custody. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Officer Rico retires to a familiar home

Rico’s last day of work was three weeks ago. Lansing’s Village Board of Trustees will vote to formally recognize his retirement and transfer his ownership to Haan on Tuesday, January 18.

“Our relationship will continue into his retirement. He’s going to be able to enjoy some snuggles and playing with toys,” Officer Haan said.

He noted, however, it was a struggle for Officer Rico to adapt to not going with him to work: “He was a little bit upset with me leaving for work without him … he noticed me putting on the uniform … now he’s adapting.”

Officer Haan does not know who the LPD’s next K-9 officer will be, but he suggested that patrol officers who want to be handlers should proactively talk with residents out on the job because it helps develop valuable skills.

“[I’ve] learned how to be a lot more patient,” Haan said. “It was great all together. It was cool experiences and [I] definitely will never [forget them].”

The Lansing Police Department is located at 2710 170th Street.

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