Evanston canine cop, partner share more than just job
Officer Anthony Sosa and his German shepherd partner Rony pose for a portrait in Evanston on Oct. 12. | Jon Durr~For Sun-Times Media
NAME: Anthony Sosa
BEST KNOWN AS: New police canine officer
Updated: November 26, 2012 6:10AM
EVANSTON — Anthony Sosa, the Evanston Police Department’s new canine officer, celebrates a birthday this month.
Rony, the exuberant German shepherd he’s been paired up with, is celebrating one of his own two days before.
“We’re both Scorpios,” the officer confided.
They’re bound to be close. Sosa and Rony spend long shifts together, conducting painstaking searches of buildings and vehicles, looking for weapons, drugs and other contraband.
Once off shift the officer takes Rony home with him where the dog has become part of the Sosa family.
“Socially, he’ll come up and lick and gets along well with the family,’’ the officer said, describing Rony’s home life.
At the same time, “he’s pretty much always on. He’s got to be doing something.”
Police officials announced last week the appointment of Sosa as the department’s new canine officer.
Applicants were put through a rigorous interview process, which included interviews, a compatibility review by command staff, even home visits, determining if they were right for the job, said Sgt. Kevin Campbell, in charge of the canine unit and part of the review team.
Sosa, 37, a seven-year veteran of the department and a former U.S. Marine with a degree in economics, was judged to be the top candidate, he said.
Following his selection the officer spent six weeks in Sharpsville, Pa., at a school run by a retired police officer and canine handler, learning the ins and outs of canine work.
At the Sharpsville Kennel, aspiring dog handlers work first on what is called “ghost obedience,” Sosa explained, which entails “getting your tones right, getting your attitudes right, before you even touch a dog.”
One of the drills calls for hanging onto a leash with nothing on the end, and then going through the motions of “presenting a vehicle to your dog,” Sosa explained.
Rony, a sable-colored German shepherd, was brought over from Czechoslovakia, where he had already undergone a year of training, Sosa said.
The two “clicked right away,” the officer said.
When he approached Rony, his new partner went into sort of a spin, then “jumped on top of me, licked me,’’ the officer recalled.
The department has been without a canine unit since last year when longtime dog, Jack, went into retirement.
A canine team “is an excellent tool for law enforcement, really assisting in search-and-seizure issues,” said Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington.
A search conducted with canines can be done with much less disruption and much more efficiently, the chief said.
“Also,” he added, “right now one of the things that is of huge import to our city is the proliferation of guns.
“We now go to a scene where those items maybe have been discarded, the dog can search a huge area for firearms that would take officers hours to do. It’s a very unique law-enforcement tool and I couldn’t be more thrilled (with how the new team interacts).”
Undeniably the dog has an exuberance the new officer wants to cultivate. In one of their first deployments Rony gave the officer a positive indication, just as they worked on in Sharpsville, indicating drugs were in a car on the 1800 block of Dempster.
With the window down the dog didn’t wait to be let in to begin sniffing. Rather, he “just jumped right through the window,” and located some seeds and stems that were residue of drugs, the officer said.
In the interview room of the Police Department he flashed the same zeal last week, snatching the foam windscreen from a Medill student’s microphone.
“That’s a good thing,” assured the officer. “We want him to be curious.”