Duties and responsibilities
- Eight teams of officer (handler) and K-9 (canine), one team of dual-purpose training
- Explosive detection on trains, buses, and all RTA property
- Assist Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) Team
- Assist Anti-Terrorism Team
- Help neighboring communities that don’t have dedicated explosive detection teams
- Dogs live with their handlers and are part of their families
- RTA maintains the seven teams on-call for around-the-clock incident response
- Trained by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX
- Initial training is 10 weeks
- Require three- to four-day annual re-certification
- Part of TSA National Explosion Detection K-9 Team Program
- TSA provides approximately $50,500/year for seven of the K-9 teams
- Used for explosives detection; also monitoring/patrolling the safety of passengers on RTA
- Certified from the State of Ohio
- Certified nationally by North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA)
- Used for explosive odor detection, patrol, tracking and aggression and building and area search
- Purchased by RTA
Meet the K-9s and their Handlers
Officer Patrick Rivera and Cobra
Officer Patrick Rivera is a 13 year veteran of the GCRTA Police Department. He held many odd jobs before being hired at RTA, including fighting fires for the Air National Guard. Officer Rivera was sent back to Lackland Air Force Base in 2009 to train as a K-9 handler. It was here that he met his partner, Cobra, and the two have been inseparable ever since. Cobra is a female German Shepherd whose high drive and can-do attitude made her a perfect candidate for TSA’s National Explosive Detection Training Program. Since teaming up with Officer Rivera, she has worked countless events for the City of Cleveland and neighboring jurisdictions, ranging from clearing bomb threats and suspicious packages to presidential visits and major sporting events. The team has also been used nationally for special events including a Presidential Inauguration and two Super Bowls. Of all the events they work, the Cleveland National Air Show is their favorite, mostly because of the corn dogs. Officers Rivera and Cobra share a love for the City of Cleveland and its people and a strong desire to keep it safe.
Officer Terry Jaram and Blecky
Officer Terry Jaram has always known that he’s wanted to help people. Hired to the GCRTA Police Force in 2009, Officer Jaram was finally where he belonged, helping others and protecting the Greater Cleveland community. In 2015 Officer Jaram was selected to complete K-9 handler training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. For ten weeks he trained with his new partner Blecky and graduated TSA’s National Explosive Detection Canine Program. Blecky is a Labrador Retriever with a high drive that shares Officer Jaram’s love of putting smiles on people’s faces. So far in their time together this dynamic duo has assisted in protecting multiple events both locally and nationally including the Inauguration of President Trump. The team can be found patrolling and sweeping the Cleveland National Air Show and were essential assets in protecting the 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC) and the Cleveland Cavaliers Championship Parade. Officers Jaram and Blecky have a promising future together with lots of adventures to come! When not protecting the city the team enjoys beach volleyball and spending time with Officer Jaram’s four daughters.
Officer Brian Novak and Bleck
Officer Brian Novak has been a part of RTA’s Transit Police Department for 18 years. One of the original K-9 handlers, Officer Novak has had the pleasure of working with two previous dogs while on duty when the program began in 2006. Officer Novak and his partner, Bleck, are quite a team. They regularly assist local law enforcement agencies with explosive detection sweeps, bomb threats, and large-scale special event patrols as needed. Bleck is a male German Shepherd born on September 17, 2014 in Czech Republic. He successfully completed the TSA’s National Explosive Detection Canine Training Program at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas in 2017. After a hard day at work, Bleck enjoys chicken snacks at home with Officer Novak and his family.
Officer Dennis Harmon and Valto
Officer Dennis Harmon has always felt the calling to help people. In his many years on RTA’s Transit Police Force he has been able to accomplish this and many other things. Officer Harmon’s previous partners, Axo and Kubo, were beloved by many in Greater Cleveland before their retirements in 2017 and 2020 respectively. They worked tirelessly to protect the residents and visitors in Cuyahoga County. Officer Harmon is now partnered with Valto, a Belgian Malinois-Shepard mix born on January 22, 2019. Valto comes from Slovakia and is RTA’s only dual purpose canine officer trained in the areas of explosive odor detection, patrol, tracking and aggression and building and area search. The team regularly works events such as the Cleveland National Air Show and recently participated in one of the nation’s largest D-Day reenactments held in Conneaut, Ohio. Valto and Officer Harmon perform safety checks on buses, trains and at train stations to ensure the safety of all who travel on RTA.
Officer Jared Shelley and Kym
Officer Jared Shelley is a 6 year veteran of GCRTA’s Transit Police force. Since joining the K-9 unit in 2014, Officer Shelley and his partner Kym have become fast friends. Kym is a female Labrador Retriever born July 3, 2013 in Czech Republic. She completed the TSA’s National Explosive Detection Canine Training Program in 2014 and has been hard at work ever since. The pair have seen their share of high-profile events, including the NBA Finals, Cavaliers Championship Parade, and the 2016 Republican National Convention. When Officer Shelley and Kym aren’t surrounded by celebrities, they patrol RTA’s transit system keeping the patrons of Greater Cleveland safe every day. She enjoys spending time at home with Officer Shelley and his family, and after a long day of patrols, she relaxes with a nice chicken snack.
Officer Joe Cannavino and Zora
Officer Joe Cannavino has always shown an interest in protecting people. This passion was fully realized during his involvement in GCRTA’s Transit Police Department for the past 4 years. Joining the K-9 unit in 2017, Officer Cannavino, and his partner Zora, have done explosive detection sweeps for many local events, including a visit from President Trump. Zora is a 3 year old female German Shepard from the Netherlands, and while she may look small, she is a mighty fighter. Zora attended TSA’s National Explosive Detection Canine Training Program at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas in 2017. Officers Cannavino and Zora patrol the RTA transit system and assist local, state and federal law enforcement agencies with preventative explosive sweeps and bomb threats. Zora enjoys her work as a K-9 officer for RTA and looks forward to coming to work each day.
Officer Chris Kopp and Gama
Officer Chris Kopp is a man of faith, family and community. In his 18 years with the GCRTA Transit Police, he has served flawlessly and made positive impacts on countless lives. In his 12 years on the K-9 Unit he’s protected the safety of people and events both locally and nationally. Officer Kopp’s original partner Silas, was universally loved by the patrons of RTA and retuned that love with 9 good years of service to the Cleveland community. Now partnered with Gama, a 4 year old German Shepherd from TSA’s National Explosive Detection Training Program, he continues his steadfast patrol. Originally from Germany, Gama is a fireball with a high drive and strong desire to keep people safe. Officer Kopp and Gama have been requested to help out at high profile national events such as the Inauguration of President Donald Trump and Super Bowl 52 in Minnesota. This excellent team is just getting started. In her down time, Gama enjoys being at home and part of the Kopp family.
Officer Brad Beaulieu and Kane
Officer Brad Beaulieu has 4 years of service with the GCRTA Transit Police Department. He and his partner Kane, graduated TSA’s Explosive Detection Canine Training on April 25th, 2018 at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Thus far, the team has completed explosive sweeps for the Cleveland Marathon, the 4th of July Liberty Fest at Crocker Park, and the Warrensville Heights Memorial Day Parade. Kane is a 2 year old Belgian Malinois born on March 4th, 2016 in the Czech Republic. Kane and his partner patrol the RTA transit system and assist local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies with preventative explosive sweeps and bomb threats. The new team is excited to learn and grow as partners and see where the future takes them. In their free time they enjoy swimming and playing basketball.
Each year our K-9 team has a post at the Cleveland National Air Show. Pictured here: Officers Rivera and Cobra, Officers Harmon and Kubo, Officers Shelley and Kym, and Officers Jaram and Blecky.
Officer River brought Cobra to a Cleveland school to help teach them about safety and security.
Officers Rivera and Cobra and Officers Jaram and Blecky presented personalized Christmas cards to Kelsey in 2018. Also pictured, Sgt. Tekautz and Sgt. Medlong.
Officers Cannavino and Zora sweep the stage before Maroon 5 performs at the 2018 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Pro-Football Hall of Fame.
RTA K-9 officers join forces with other K-9s from around the country to protect fans at the Super Bowl in 2018.
Our K-9 units worked with agencies from across the country to keep Cleveland safe during the 2019 All Star Game.