When Corporal Aaron Honhart wakes up each morning, he’s met by a trusted companion who also happens to be his co-worker.
“He is with me everywhere I go, home or work. Most people say they leave their work at work, but I get to take mine home, but that’s not a bad thing. He’s great. It makes the job fun,” Honhart said.
Honhart recently started working with the police department’s K-9, Benno, after being certified in August of this year.
Benno was born in 2008 and is a male Belgian Mailnois from Holland. He started working with the Edinboro University Police Department in 2011. He is trained in narcotic detection as well as tracking missing people and can help in article recovery. Benno and his handler assist several other agencies around the area when they need K-9 assistance.
Current handler Honhart started working with the Edinboro University Police Department in 2009. He is a graduate of Mercyhurst Northeast. After graduation, he worked with the Youngsville Borough Police in 2006 before joining the Fighting Scots.
And together, they make a great team.
Former handler, now police supervisor Kevin Haft speaks highly of Benno and his career with the police department.
“Benno is a great addition for us. He can sweep an area quickly and let us know what’s going on, whether it’s a small dorm room or in the woods.”
Additionally, “we are one of three K-9 units in the area. There is us, Edinboro Borough Police and Corry Police Department. We are also the first of the PASSHE schools to have a K-9 unit.”
With a jurisdiction as small as Edinboro’s campus, there are times where Benno and his handler may get asked to go and sweep a local high school to check things out. Other times, he goes to visit.
When Benno and Honhart are at work, they train together. Benno’s incredible sense of smell allows him to find narcotics such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana quickly.
In a demonstration, Corporal Honhart hid narcotics obtained from the DEA for training purposes in a vehicle gas cap. Benno did not see him. After a few minutes went by, Honhart removed Benno from the car and began the gestures to tell Benno where to look.
Within a minute, Benno was sitting in front of the gas cap with his nose pointed to the spot where the drugs were sitting.
After much praise, Benno was given his toy of which he excitedly took and proceeded to play tug-a-war with Corporal Honhart just like a typical dog would.
In another demonstration, Honhart hid a cell phone in the grass in an open area with a human scent on it.
After about 10 minutes, Benno was sent to find it. He checked out the area and then tracked down the scent in no time. He laid down right by the evidence, just as he was taught.
As a reward, he was given much praise by Honhart and police supervisor Haft and received a toy for a job well done.
“I like to call it his paycheck. He did his job. He gets his paycheck, which are his toys,” Honhart said.
Honhart and Benno patrol the campus together. Benno rides along in the back anxiously awaiting the next job.
As part of patrol, officers will randomly choose a dorm hall to walk through. Not only does this keep safety in mind, according to the police, but it also makes their presence known on campus.
“We want students to know they are safe here,” Honhart said, and by getting their presence out there helps.
When Honhart walks through a dorm building, Benno checks things out as they walk the halls sniffing along the way for narcotics. Students get excited when they see Benno.
“He’s so cute. I love dogs,” one student said, as Benno continued on with his job.
When Honhart and Benno aren’t out patrolling, they are in the police department either doing paperwork or waiting for their next move.
The police department is capable of seeing the entire campus in one room, as well as locking or unlocking doors. They also tend to phone calls or the anonymous tip line.
“These are all great tools to use for safety on our campus,” Honhart said.
Haft added, “The anonymous tip line is great. However, we have been having a little trouble with people knowing when to use it. For example, if you hear gun shots, you should call the direct line right way and not waste any time. The tip line is used to provide information that we should keep an eye on.”
The university police department operates very similar to any other police department. It has holding cells where suspects or those arrested can stay for up to six hours. It has a booking room, interrogation area, evidence holdings and more.
“We want students to know they are safe. At the end of the day, we are police. At times, we wear our security hats as we lock up buildings. We wear many hats, but we are here to protect you and keep you safe,” Honhart said. “All of these tools and Benno help make our job more proficient and effective.”
“I applied to K-9 knowing it might be challenging. There’s a lot of training that goes into it but I love it,” Honhart said.
Karlee Dies is the News Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org