The employee of the month at Blue Island Police Department is a toy obsessed 6-year-old.
A Belgian Malinois named Rocco found 498 pounds of marijuana last week in what police Chief Geoffery Farr said is the largest K-9 drug bust in Blue Island history.
Farr did not disclose much about the active investigation into the origin of the massive drug haul. No charges were filed as of Friday.
Officer Miles O’Brien, a certified K-9 officer with the Blue Island police, is Rocco’s handler. Rocco previously worked for the Minnesota State Police, but the force retired him, making him a free agent who fell into the lap of the Blue Island Police Department.
“He has more seniority than me,” O’Brien said with a smile. “I’m the one learning from him.”
If 6-years-old sounds young, O’Brien said for narcotics and human scent detection he is “right in his prime.”
When the department posted a photo on Facebook of Rocco sitting in front of a mountain of odorless bags filled with marijuana, he immediately became a popular figure. “This handsome boy deserves a medal!” one commenter wrote.
“I hope Rocco is only working 40 hrs a week & I hope he gets cop of the month for his excellence,” another commenter wrote on the post, the most popular of the year for the department with almost 400 likes and 100 comments.
And yet, like every social media star, Rocco has his detractors, with many commenters pointing out that marijuana is legal in the state of Illinois. While the quantity that was discovered is well over the legal limit of 30 grams of raw cannabis, the nation’s changing legal policy could pose a challenge for a dog trying to discern between legal and criminal activity.
But O’Brien said dogs smell marijuana differently than humans, which reduces the odds of a false tip from the canine.
“He is not smelling cannabis as its whole, he is imprinted on a particular chemical that is in THC,” he said, explaining Rocco doesn’t get overly triggered by a random person smoking on the street.
Rocco came to the department three months ago and has lived and trained with O’Brien. But Oct. 16 was just the third week Rocco was on the force, begging the question of how many drugs were missed without the pup’s snout.
“There is always that thought that can go on in your mind,” O’Brien said. “It’s definitely rewarding. Rewarding is an understatement.”
For a drug bust of this size, O’Brien said he gave Rocco some steak to celebrate and planned a relaxing weekend watching football on the couch.