A special partnership on streets of Portage

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Featured

Published on January 31, 2012 with No Comments

Chances are, if you are a resident if Portage, you know the police partners, Mark Monks and Eros.

Your chances of having met them are even higher if you have a child or are a child in the elementary school system. Sgt. Monks and Eros have made it a habit to visit schools and their children, for the ultimate meet-n-greet between law officers and the youngest citizens.

By now, you may have guessed, Eros is a partner who is also a dog, a full-blooded German Shepherd. He is more than a partner in that he is part of the Monks family, as familiar to the neighborhood as anyone else.

Sgt. Monks is closing in on two decades’ of work with the Portage Police Department. Eros has been an eight-year partner.

They work the night shift. “I love it,” said Sgt. Monks.

Where once there were lifestyle-destroying rotating shifts, the Portage police now stay on their same shift all the time.

“You can be more self-iniated at night, more reactive,” said Sgt. Monks.

“There is a variety of crimes, thieves, drunks, the usual people who stay out too late.”

Eros’ role is defined in three specialties: Protection, Narcotics and Tracking. He is commanded in German and will not start or finish until Sgt. Monks issues orders.

But his mere presence is his advantage.

“People tend not to argue with a dog,” said Sgt. Monks.

“For the job part, we’re always in the action if something happens. When people run, whether it’s because they crashed or because they were in a fight or they burglarized and took off, the dog goes there first.”

Sometimes, he said, a tracked suspect will deny he is involved at all, since he has gotten away from the scene.

“But I tell them, ‘Why would Eros point you out? Why has he said you’re the one?’ ” said Sgt. Monks.

 “You really cannot argue with a dog.”

At a bar fight, “As soon as we arrive, the crowd will settle down. It is easier to separate a crowd with a dog. You can see them thinking about running off from officers, but no one wants to be the one the dog will get.

“His mere presence will end it. I tell people, ‘You can bring as many cops as you want, but one dog barking will deescalate the situation.’

“They think they can intimidate an officer, but they see the dog and they’re done. His mere presence has probably done more than we will ever know.”

Eros and Sgt. Monks have responded to bordering towns and those towns will return the favor. All departments know the impact of a Canine Patrol.

“The most rewarding things happen because of Eros,” said Sgt. Monks.

“A lot of officers can dig through a car and find nothing. It is rewarding when we search a car or a hotel room and find it.

“Or, when somebody runs from you. A woman may have been assaulted and she says, ‘That guy took off that way,’ and we’re tracking the person did the crime. The dog led us right to them. You confront them and they said they never ran, but the dog led us right there.”

Sgt. Monks had been a patrolman for a little more than four years when Portage started its Canine Patrol. He volunteered for it, was interviewed and got his first dog.

That officer died on the job, from a cancerous tumor. So Sgt. Monks had to reapply for another dog and along came Eros.

“He lives with us,” said Sgt. Monks.

“We have small kids and he is great with them, a house pet.

“My children have gone training with me, so they know what he does. They love him to death.”

When the partners visit elementary schools, Sgt. Monks is well-aware those talks are helping children be familiar with officers and the job.

“They are all still wide-eyed and that’s just great,” said Sgt. Monks.

“I know my kids’ friends and the neighborhood kids like us. If you get the public on your side, when the public knows you are here to help, not out to write tickets, but here to help, that’s it.

“It is part of part of living where I want to live, to keep the place I love safe.”

An extended part of his career is as the shift leader, training up the young officers, corporals to become sergeants, patrolman to learn the ropes.

“We want to have officers who naturally move up,” said Sgt. Monks.

“I want to be a leader. I want to help them advance their careers. I want the young guys to know I like what I am doing and I want the young guys to like what they are doing.”

Now comes the sad part.

Eros is sick. Monks noticed his back legs seemed to be not as functional.

In December, tests revealed a degenerating spine, maybe some pinched nerves. Finally, he could not go anymore.

He had the surgery the first week of 2012.

“I said, ‘I’ll pay for the surgery myself,’ ” said Sgt. Monks. The alternatives were surgery or have Eros put down.

“The neurologist said he is getting some feeling back,” said Sgt. Monks. So now he is in search of rehab.

“I spent a whole day calling for rehab,” he said.

“I want to get him to walk again.”

Whatever the outcome, this is the last canine partner for Sgt. Monks. He wants to remember the job as he and Eros.

This is not a Portage Police Department function. It is all on Sgt. Monks and the community.

To raise donations to cover the cost of surgery and rehab, they have set out collections canisters are area doctors’ offices, restaurants and any place people gather.

Monks said the final tally will be around $3,000. Already, donors from here to California have come up with three-fourths of the cost, he said.

“He came home from an in-patient rehab center on Wednesday, Jan. 18, and seemed to be doing better than we could have expected,” Monks said.  “On Thursday the 19th, he had a setback, as he now has a bladder infection and possibly some tissue swelling and pain around the surgical area.  This has made him a bit more grumpy and less inclined to try to work at walking. 

 “He was given plenty of rest that weekend and we should be receiving his new medications.   Hopefully, we can begin an outpatient rehab treatment.  Right now he can crawl around a bit, but is not getting up on his own.  If we stand him up with the aid of a harness, he will stand for a few moments on his own, but will not try to walk. 

 “The doctors and I are still confident in his recovery and the outlook for a good quality of life as our family pet.  We just need to get his strength back up and get him past these infections. 

 “As for the bills, Chief Williams has let me know that the city will pay for the bills through his surgery. 

“I will pay for the rehab and any other after care, as he is now officially retired form active duty.  The response from the public has been great.  My wife and I are eternally grateful.”

Though admittedly new to social media, Monks can receive donations through a Facebook account,  “Cops for a Cure” and the Portage police site.

There is also a donation account Regional Federal Credit Union. Monks can be contacted at his private e-mail: MarkjenMonks@hotmail.com

“I never got into police work to make a lot of money, but I need it now,” said Sgt. Monks.


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About Mike Siroky

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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