Police department mourns loss of K-9 drug officer

Otto, the Hillsboro K9 officer, died Thursday of natural causes at his home.

“It is not only a loss to the department but to the community as well,” said Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning.

Otto, a German Shepherd dog, joined the Hillsboro police department in October 1997. He immediately began obedience and drug recognition training in Wichita with trainer Brad Agnew. He graduated from training school April 1998.

Law enforcement officers Otto and Jessey Hiebert also underwent training together so Hiebert could learn how to properly groom and handle the dog. All of Otto’s commands were given in German.

According to Kinning, after Otto was found dead, the event was reported to the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and investigated for possible foul play.

“There are Kansas statutes relating to Otto,” Kinning said. “(The dog’s death) was investigated as if it were the death of an officer.

The dog was taken to Kansas State University for testing, and results came back, stating that the dog died of gastric torsion, commonly known as a “twisted gut.”

“He was our most popular officer,” Kinning said. “He visited every school in the county. He will be missed.”

Kinning also said Otto not only worked in drug detection, but he also was an invaluable public relations tool.

A memorial service for the police dog will be held Friday, May 11, at Hillsboro Memorial Park, with pastor John Ryding speaking at the service.

Chief Kinning said he had been contacted by the Wichita Police Department regarding the service. The WPD had wanted to bring the bagpipes to Hillsboro, but they had a prior obligation.

Kinning said he was later contacted by the Kansas City Police Department. If possible, the department will bring bagpipes to the service Friday.

Marion County Sheriff Lee Becker also expressed his regrets at the loss of the drug dog.

The K9-drug work, however, will not end with Otto’s death. Kinning said a fund has already been started for the purchase of a new dog as a memorial to Otto.

Becker said the Sheriff’s Department would donate $500 from the drug-dog fund toward the purchase of a new drug dog.

Anyone wanting to make a donation to Otto’s Memorial Fund may do so at the Emprise State Bank in Hillsboro.

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