A tough good-bye for the community

The Augusta community recently bid farewell to Rico, its retiring Department of Safety K-9 police service dog.  Rico was honored by the City Council and a special plaque  is  on display at the department office.
“Rico hasn’t figured out retirement - he still runs to get in the car. He just can’t stop working,” said Sgt. Chad McCluskey, Rico’s handler and best friend.
Rico will spend his remaining years with McCluskey, but the two won’t be residing in Augusta. McCluskey was recently hired as the public safety and police chief at Windsor Heights, Iowa, near Des Moines.
 The lifelong Augusta resident will begin his new duties on May 29th.  Saying good-bye is  difficult but he looks forward to the new opportunities.
“I’ll miss a lot about home - those who have been supportive - they’re all like family,” McCluskey continued, “My leaving is not for any reason other than personal growth and education - helping others learn and grow is exciting.”
Growing up in Augusta, he wanted to be a firefighter and joined the local Junior Firefighters when he became the appropriate age.
McCluskey credits retired Lt. Butch Haag for encouraging his interest and participation in the program.  He became a volunteer fireman when he reached 18.
At 19, he took a job as department dispatcher and performed those duties for a couple of years before moving into a full-time position in the fire division.
Soon after, former Department of Safety Director David Pate asked the young man about his future plans and inquired if he’d be interested in becoming a police officer.
Augusta’s unique Department of Safety structure, combining police and fire departments, requires police officers to be trained as firefighters.  With McCluskey’s firefighting background, he was a good candidate.
 It didn’t take  long before he knew that  making the move and taking the training was  a good decision.  Promotions followed and in 1998, the Department acquired Rosie,  a canine to assist with drug enforcement, with McCluskey becoming his handler.
Later in 2003, after Rosie’s retirement, Basco, a new police service canine was purchased entirely with donated funds.  Basco and McCluskey went to training and became a new team.
Basco served more than eight years protecting the community when he died in February of 2011.  Later that year, Rico, became the newest member of the force and McCluskey’s K-9 partner.  
During his career, Rico conducted more than 244 narcotics sniffs, resulting in over 38 arrests and the seizure of more than $42,800 worth of narcotics. He was involved in at least 116 patrol utilizations, one of which resulted in an apprehension; and he has been involved in several patrol related tracks, one of which was a successful mile long off-lead track of a Federal suspect.
Both McCluskey and Rico have impressive reputations, known across the nation for assisting law enforcement agencies.
McCluskey is proud of Augusta’s canine program.
“When we got Rosie, the City was one of only a handful with dogs...Basco was the only dog in Butler and Cowley counties.  We were involved in search warrants and lots of calls, which eventually led to Ark City department getting a dog,” he explained.
Tomorrow will be McCluskey’s last day on the street and Tuesday his last official day with the Augusta Department of Safety.
“This is home.  I won’t be too far away and will enjoy my parents close enough to visit.  I’m going to miss so many great people here,” he said.
McCluskey is known for avoiding the limelight and bragging on himself, so emphasis on others comes as no surprise,  “I can’t stress enough how important our volunteers are.  There are no people more dedicated.  The way we have it structured in Augusta works so well - you might not think it would, but it does.  While you’re fighting fires, you don’t know who is paid and who is volunteer.  There is no difference in performance or dedication.”
His commitment to community and teamwork will serve him well in his new position.