Handler’s arrest sidelines K-9

JOHNSTOWN – The city Police Department will be without K-9 Spike for an undetermined length of time after his handler was arrested and suspended from the department, Chief Mark Gifford said Friday.

Adam Schwabrow, 32, a city resident, was arrested Sept. 19 and charged with third-degree rape, commonly known as statutory rape, a felony.

Schwabrow is the handler of the Police Department’s narcotics dog Spike, who now is being taken care of by Gifford.

The dog, however, will not provide any services for the department for the time being, Gifford said.

“Right now, this all needs to be discussed with the mayor,” he said. “We are dealing with other things right now, and to be honest, this particular piece of the situation has taken a back seat.”

The chief said the cost to the department to buy Spike and acquire his certifications was about $10,000.

Dogs in law enforcement can be trained for a number of duties including bomb detection, narcotics detection, tracking and handler protection.

In order to keep their certifications, the dogs must complete 16 hours of training each month.

Gifford said Spike will no longer attend the training courses until the issue can be resolved.

“The K-9 is certified as a K-9 with the handler,” Gifford said. “They are a certified team. For example, years ago I was a dog handler; now if I were to handle Spike, we are not certified. We have to be certified as a team and have to be certified by New York state.”

He said Spike wouldn’t lose anything or become “rusty” with the tasks he’s already been trained to do if he doesn’t attend the courses.

The department’s K-9 program is paid for by the taxpayers, but local businesses donated money to tint the K-9 vehicle windows and install an alarm system that goes off if the car gets too hot.

Gifford said the special K-9 vehicle will remain out of service for the time being as well.

The chief said if a situation comes up where the department may need a K-9’s assistance it will call in other departments.

He said Spike is about 8 years old and is experiencing some medical problems, so it’s possible he could be retired before all the issues can be resolved.

“Anything is possible at this point,” Gifford said. “The process isn’t that far along yet.”

Schwabrow, a nine-year-veteran of the Police Department, was placed on paid suspension.

If convicted of the charge, Schwabrow could face 1 1/3 to four years in state prison.