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The Gustine Police Department’s new K-9 unit is on the street. Officer Kevin Roseen is pictured with his K-9 partner Fiona.

GUSTINE - A new addition to the Gustine Police Department recently hit the streets with her partner.

Fiona, a police K-9, is teaming up with officer Kevin Roseen and is on duty after the duo completed an extensive training regimen to be certified.

Roseen, who started his law enforcement career with GPD as a rookie officer two years ago, said he came into the field with an interest in having a K-9 partner.

“I knew that if I became a police officer I wanted to have a K-9. I grew up around animals and have a love for dogs,” he said. “When I first got hired on I knew that a K-9 wasn’t an option, but I put the program together behind the scenes, and when the time was right I presented it to Lt. Joseph.”

Roseen said Joseph, who was leading the department’s day-to-day operations at the time, new Police Chief Ruben Chavez, City Manager Doug Dunford and the council all were supportive.

Roseen said Fiona is trained in both apprehension and narcotics detection.

The dog can also do area searches and building searches, track missing persons and search for specific articles, such as a firearm.

The canine is a Belgian Malinois, Roseen added. The breed is smaller than the German Shepherds often used as law enforcement K-9s and do not have as many problems, he explained.

The presence of a K-9 increases the tools the officer has at his disposal, Roseen said. Fiona’s presence enhances officer safety, he added, and can help prevent situations from escalating.

“With us working out here by ourselves, having a dog as a partner is very reassuring. Your best friend is right behind you and is going to be going with you on every single call,” Roseen related.

Roseen agreed to regularly be on call and is typically able to respond quickly if another officer requests Fiona’s assistance.

“It definitely brings reassurance to our officers, knowing that we have a K-9 for things such as building searches,” he explained. “The K-9 is for the unknown. You have a burglary with a door open....you don’t know what is inside.”

Fiona is also a hit with the general public, Roseen added, and he looks forward to being able to conduct outreach events such as school visits.

“It is good public relations,” he told Mattos Newspapers. “Everybody wants to say hi to her. They don’t remember my name any more. All they know is Fiona.”

Roseen said he is making do on the street with a regular patrol car, but that a specialized K-9 vehicle - a Dodge Charger - should be arriving in the near future.

Roseen and Fiona quickly developed a deep bond, he said.

“She is the best partner I could ever ask for,” Roseen remarked. “At work she is my partner. As soon as she steps into the patrol car she knows it is time to work. As soon as we hop in my personal car to go run errands she is part of the family. She goes with me wherever I go.”

He and Fiona still train weekly at Law Dog K9 in Fresno.

Roseen said he would like to see the department add a second K-9 unit within a couple of years.

Roseen said he made a commitment to stay with the Gustine department through the duration of Fiona’s career.

“This is what I want in this career, and I said I would do anything I could to make it happen,” he commented. “I have always loved my job, and now I love it even more.”