One of Elk Grove Village's most effective crime fighters is retiring -- but he won't be handing in a standard issue uniform or police radio.
Police K9 Vasco, who has been the partner of Officer Rick Meyers since 2005, is stepping down from the force, as is required of police dogs after a number of years.
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Vasco, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois, was honored this week at a village board meeting for his work during drug seizures, searches and other police investigations.
Together, Vasco and Meyers made for "an outstanding crime-fighting team," Deputy Police Chief John Nowacki said.
Vasco helped make 233 arrests, was involved in 97 building searches -- in which two offenders were located and arrested -- and conducted 1,051 vehicle searches, police said.
He helped confiscate more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana, 2,182 grams of cocaine, 74 ecstasy pills and 28 grams of heroin.
He also earned nine first place medals in K9 Olympics competitions.
The department also has a second K9, named Kim.
Police dogs are usually retired between 10 and 12 years of age, Meyers said. Vasco will be 12 years old this summer.
He said Vasco's retirement is a bittersweet moment.
"I've had Vasco for eight years. He's always been by my side," said Meyers, who grew emotional during the ceremony. "There's never been one moment where I didn't doubt that he had my back doing a building search or tracking bad guys."
Meyers said at age 17, he took a class at Harper College taught by the man that would later become his boss, Elk Grove Police Chief Stephen Schmidt. It was during one of Schmidt's classes that a Schaumburg Police K9 handler gave a presentation -- and Meyers said his interest in law enforcement was piqued.
"The last eight years have gone by in the blink of an eye," said Meyers, who remains on the force as a patrol officer. "He's been a great dog for me and we've had a lot of good times together."
Vasco will continue to live with Meyers and his family at home.
"Besides a professional dog, he's also a family dog," Mayor Craig Johnson said. "It's good to know that Vasco is well taken care of and that bond will stay going."
Last week, another Belgian Malinois joined the Elk Grove Village Police Department and will have six weeks of training before going on the job in the middle of May. His name is Korne.