POSTED: Saturday, July 13, 2013 - 7:00am
UPDATED: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 2:28pm
Baton Rouge, LA (NBC33) — Most dog owners come home from work and play with their pets. But Cpl. Jesse Barcelona and his dog, Geno, work together. Their unique bond led to Barcelona's being named Local Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
"I had no clue about it," Cpl. Barcelona said of getting the call last month about winning the award, "so it was pretty surprising to hear I'd won an award that I had no idea I was even up for."
His father was the one who nominated him. For someone who claims to be motivated by the pursuit of excellence and a desire to help people, he admitted that this award will hold a special place in his heart.
"It kinda feels good that he feels proud of me," Cpl. Barcelona said. "I think everybody wants to try to make their father or parents proud."
He may have been surprised to win, but the honor would not shock his fellow officers. They knew he was good five years ago, when they admitted him into the K-9 division.
"K-9 is a very hard division to get into," he said. "It's one of the few divisions where the other handlers choose who comes in there. So you have to earn the respect of those guys to get in there.
"Being accepted in there, it took a lot of hard work, but once you get in there, you definitely want to make sure you prove that they chose the right person, so you try to do the best you can."
Cpl. Barcelona has won multiple awards from BRPD, as well as a national heroism award. He and Geno have also placed in regional and national K-9 competitions.
"He's performed better than most dogs ever have and probably will, " Cpl. Barcelona said. "Now, granted, I put a lot of hard work into training him to get him there, but he just excels at stuff."
Cpl. Barcelona and Geno work at night and respond to violent crimes. Their skills have helped them track down suspects, find weapons, and rescue people from kidnappers.
"My job performance is helping people in immediate threats, so if I can respond there quickly and rapidly, and prevent somebody from being hurt or something like that, that's just the ultimate for me."
Their work often takes them into dangerous neighborhoods and tense situations. Every night that ends with both of them coming home safe is a good night.
"Watching him work, find bad guys that have fled in somebody's neighborhood, which could definitely put them in danger, it's a big relief when you don't have to worry about there any more," Cpl. Barcelona said.
He and Geno often visit schools and youth groups to give demonstrations. Most of those events take place when they would normally be asleep, but he recognizes the value they have for the department.
"Because we get to show them a little bit of what we do," he said. "But it also, a lot of people are fearful of police K-9s, and we can kind of show them that it's not just an aggressive thing, that they are animals and they are loved."
In addition to the trophy, University of Phoenix made a $2,500 donation in Cpl. Barcelona's honor to the National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial Fund .