This article appeared in the July 8, 2022 edition of the Tribune-Review, written by reporter Megan Swift.

Westmoreland County Park Police’s only police dog, Rico, received a gift to help with his training, thanks to 1ST SUMMIT BANK.

Rico, a German shepherd and Belgian Malinois mix, is 1½ and trained to find explosives and guns, as well as in tracking and apprehension. The dog began serving after Rex, the department’s first explosives detection dog, retired in February after a decade of duty.

The $1,000 donation will go toward two pieces of equipment — an explosives detection odor kit and a synthetic rubber training arm, said Officer William Meyers of the Westmoreland County Park Police.

As the dog’s handler, Meyers of Hempfield said, Rico comes home from work with him every day. Rico lives with the Meyers family, and both are on call 24 hours a day, as they’re “usually … the first ones out there looking.”

“It’s like having eyes in the back of your head at all times,” Meyers said. “He’s very observant and protective of me and my family.”

Meyers, an officer for 15 years, said he’s “very appreciative” of the donation.

“I think it’s outstanding,” Meyers said. “They pretty much came to us and said, ‘Hey, can we help you with anything?’ and you don’t see that too often.”

Janeen Moffa, vice president and senior regional business relationship manager at 1ST SUMMIT BANK, was the one who initially approached the park police.

“I reached out to them to see if they had a need for anything … and fortunately, they did,” said Moffa of Latrobe.

Moffa said 1st Summit decided to “(open) up the door” for this donation and other partnerships moving forward because it’s growing presence in Westmoreland County.

Sean McCool, public relations and communications manager at 1ST SUMMIT, said it’s important to have partnerships in the community to “know that someone has your back.”

“We’re small, but we’re growing,” said McCool of Johnstown. “We just want to try to find opportunities to give back to organizations and people that need it in the area.”

The kit will include 23 explosives odors, Meyers said, and the training arm will bring a “more realistic approach” to apprehension training because it resembles a human arm.

“It keeps the dog focused on biting the bad guy rather than biting equipment, so when he gets into the real life situation, there’s no confusion,” Meyers said. “Sometimes, dogs fail to bite the bad guy because they don’t see the equipment.”

Previously, Meyers only had access to this equipment two times a month while training Rico in Allegheny County with the City of Pittsburgh K-9 unit. Now, Rico will be able to receive the training whenever it’s necessary

McCool said it is “great to be able to find an exact need” rather than making a “general donation.”

“These guys… they’re putting their lives on the line, so why not help them as much as we can?” Moffa said.