Saturday, February 09, 2008


Meet Elyria Police Officer Tom Baracskai, after passing their Certification on Thursday, he and his new partner Fokey became the second canine unit for the City of Elyria. They join Officer Rick Walker and his partner Stuka who have been patrolling the streets of Elyria and tracking suspects since March of 2007. It was then that we introduced Walker & Stuka to you and through that interview explained the process of getting a canine partner. As Officer Baracskai and Fokey begin their journey as partners we thought we would take you through their certification process.

First – a little background.
Officer Baracskai (pronounced Barass-Key) has been with the Elyria Police Department for 9 and half years. Although born in Elyria he was raised in Avon and graduated from Avon High School.

Joining the Department in 1998 Baracskai said he was always one who wanted to stay active and get involved in the various divisions within the Department. Baracskai received the Email two years ago from the Department searching for Officers who would be interested in becoming a canine Officer. There was no hesitation – he returned the Email throwing his hat into the ring. “I saw this as being something different, something unique in Police work. At the time there was only one now there are two of us doing this so it was something I saw as being different, challenging and fun.” Baracskai is an animal lover, if you doubt that check out the list of animals he already has at home. “We have 2 horses, 3 goats, a couple cats, a rabbit and another dog – so now two dogs in the house. So our family loves animals.” All the animals at Baracskai’s home live outside, only the two dogs live inside the home and he says they are best buds and get along great together.

Baracskai said he never had a concern about Fokey getting along with his five children, he knew that wouldn’t be a problem. He was concerned however about his other dog. “Our biggest concern was the other dog because she is spoiled, I mean she’s the Queen of the house but we eased them into over a period of a few days and there have been no problems. They sleep on the couches together get on the beds, they get along just fine.”

Baracskai’s wife Lisa said that Fokey has meshed right in and has truly become part of the family and their kids love him. “Right away they could pet him and play with him. My 8 year old was playing tug with his toys within a day or so and there were no problems at all. You could tell that he (Fokey) was a bit scared at first but he had just traveled from overseas so everything was different for him but he adjusted quickly and very well.”

As with any family with 5 kids there tends to be a bit of roughhousing and Mrs. Baracskai said that was a concern but after a couple weeks of testing the dog he has caught on and knows the difference. “He has a very good sense of knowing this is my family and they are just playing. The same as when Tom takes him to work and puts his collar on he knows this is time to work.”

Lisa Baracskai said there is another benefit, for her, to having Fokey around. “I do feel better knowing that he has a partner, even a furry one. Tom is the kind of guy who wants to be in on all the chases, even before he had Fokey, that is just the kind of Police Officer he is and now it is nice to know that as he runs through yards or into houses he has Fokey with him.”

The Certification Process
There are two categories that the dogs have to be certified in, Patrol and Special Purpose. In the Patrol Certification category the dogs and their handlers have to pass the following five areas: RECALL, OFFICER SAFETY, APPREHENTION, AREA SEARCH & OBEDIENCE. In the Special Purpose Category they have to pass the following four areas: NARCOTICS IN BUILDINGS, NARCOTICS IN VEHICLES, TRACKING SUSPECTS & ARTICLE SEARCHES.

The day started out in the old Elyria City Hall with the dogs having to find assorted drugs that had been hidden in various locations throughout the building. From there they moved up to the third floor where it was Obedience, Recall and Officer Safety.

Obedience: The dogs had to follow instructions from their handlers, walking along side of them and following verbal and hand signals.

Recall: The dogs had to be able to stop an attack on a suspect as soon as their handler called them off. If the dog continued the attack they would automatically fail.

Officer Safety: As the dog’s handler was patting down a suspect and the suspect begins to fight with the handler the dog must come to the aid of his handler.

We moved outside as the day continued with Apprehention, Area Searches and Narcotics in Vehicles.

As far as the narcotics are concerned Fokey is trained to sniff out 4 types: Cocaine, Heroin, Meth and Marijuana.

The tests on Thursday were all Pass – Fail. If they had failed any of the tests then they wouldn’t have been going to work as a team the following day. Baracskai and Fokey did pass each test. Now it’s time to get to work.

Along with other outside agencies Elyria Police Officer Rick Walker and his partner Stuka and Lorain County Deputy Sheriff Robert Perkins and his partner Drago also participated in getting re-certified Thursday. They also passed with flying colors.

Baracskai and Fokey went to work together as a team on Friday after passing their Certification on Thursday. Baracskai said that just because the certification is over and they are on the road together doesn’t mean that the training stops. “It’s just the opposite, the training goes on every single day. While we are at home or here at work, almost everything we do is a type of training. As we continue to work together and train together I am excited about what the future holds. I am confident that Fokey and I will be an effective asset to our Department and to the City of Elyria.

My final thoughts
The Officers and Deputies that I was fortunate enough to observe going through this process Thursday are truly dedicated Officers. The responsibilities that they have as the departments canine Officer is tremendous. As Officer Baracskai said during our interview echoed what Officer Walker said in our interview a year ago, the training with their canine partner is continuous. At home, at work or even while just driving in the car – an Officer and his canine partner are constantly training.

One of the things that stood out the most on Thursday, aside from the horrible stench and conditions of the old Elyria City Hall, was how focused these dogs are. In their searches or while taking down a suspect, you could see the focus in their eyes. One of the last things we did on Thursday was having Fokey go after a man who was firing a gun at his partner. I photographed this from behind Fokey and Baracskai but wanted to get a different angle. Walker said that I could stand up with him but off to the left several feet. My concern of course was, what if Fokey started towards Walker but then glanced over and saw the photographer and thought – BAD GUY. Walker said, I guarantee you he will not take his eyes off of the gun and me. Walker was 100% right, thank God. Fokey ran balls out to Walker as he was firing the gun (loaded with blanks) at his partner.

Elyria should be proud to have such an addition to their Police Department.

To see all of the photos from the Certification Day: CLICK HERE


Post a Comment

<< Home