Whitehall police officer Jesse Hackney is an 8-year-veteran of the department but is finding himself upstaged by his new partner.

Whitehall’s “rock star” and his handler, Hackney, hit the streets June 6 and look forward to an adventurous summer.

Enzo is a 2-year-old German shepherd and the first K-9 in the service of the Whitehall Division of Police.

“He’s a rock star,” said Hackney, adding that being Whitehall’s first K-9 handler is “a dream job.”

“The first day was exciting for both of us, and Enzo was like a kid of his first day of summer break,” said Hackney, 32, who has been a Whitehall police officer since 2009.

It didn’t take long for Enzo to get noticed as Hackney drove the division’s new Ford Explorer marked as a K-9 unit.

“Everyone was asking if I had him in there and if I could take him out so they could see him,” Hackney said.

Hackney was selected from four finalists within the division to become Whitehall’s first K-9 officer, and they completed a 10-week training course in Gallia County via the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Hackney excelled at written and physical tests.

“It was intense, and I learned something new every day,” Hackney said.

The 10 weeks of training taught Hackney a lot about being a K-9 officer and helped him form a bond with his new partner.

“Enzo came here directly from Germany with no training. We worked on everything together,” said Hackney, who issues commands to Enzo in German.

Like all K-9 officers, Enzo responds to commands from only his handler, Hackney.

“He’s a happy dog,” Hackney said. “All he wants is his toys, and he knows what to do to get it.”

The bond between a K-9 and handler is developed even off duty, he said.

Enzo lives with Hackney’s family that includes his wife and their two children, an 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, and two other family dogs.

“(My children) love (Enzo),” said Hackney, who named Enzo for the Lorenzo character in the vampire-based TV series, “The Vampire Diaries.”

Whitehall police Chief Mike Crispen described how Hackney’s efforts early on played a role in the decision to pick him.

“(Hackney) kind of picked himself,” Crispen said. “Jesse did a ton of research and has a passion for being a K-9 officer.”

Mayor Kim Maggard credits Hackney with laying the groundwork that established the K-9 unit.

“I call it intelligent risk-taking,” Maggard said about Hackney’s initiative to provide her with volumes of information about the benefits of a K-9 unit for the Whitehall Division of Police.

Maggard said she realized the benefits early and made the implementation of a K-9 unit part of her campaign platform during a re-election bid in 2015.

After naming Crispen chief last year, Maggard shared the information Hackney had researched, she said.

“(Crispen) supported the idea, and we all agreed it would be a great addition to our department,” Maggard said.

Crispen said the department’s K-9 unit would provide a spectrum of benefits, including law enforcement, enhanced officer safety and public relations.

“There is a connection between drugs and violence … and having (Enzo) on the street sends an even clearer message of zero tolerance (for drugs),” Crispen said.

The previous success of Whitehall police at taking drugs off the street made it possible to establish the K-9 unit, he said.

The cost of the K-9 unit – estimated at $80,000 for the dog, a new specially equipped vehicle and other equipment – is funded with money the department’s narcotics bureau has seized since it was established in 2015, Crispen said.

The department is expected to begin training a second K-9 in September that officer Kyle Jacobs likely will handle, Crispen said.

The second K-9 officer is expected to go into service in January.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo