Waterford police latest department to get new K-9
Waterford — Count Waterford among the growing list of local police departments that recently have brought on K-9s.
The force last week welcomed Neo, a 14-month-old Belgian Malinois who’s still undergoing evaluation to ensure he has the temperament for the gig.
According to police Chief Brett Mahoney, Neo is being prepped as a replacement for Ike, a 9½-year-old Belgian Malinois who’s nearing retirement.
Waterford is lucky because Ike’s handler, Officer Dan Lane, also happens to be a master trainer with (and the president of) the Connecticut Police Work Dog Association. He’s evaluating Neo — Can he walk through the mall and stay focused? Is he friendly enough to remain calm when kids pet him? — and later this month will play a role in training several new police dogs in the region.
If for some reason Neo doesn’t work out, officers always could change him out for another dog. That happened in Montville recently, and has happened to Waterford in the past.
But so far, Mahoney said, so good.
“It can be tough when you take a dog out of one environment and put it into a new one,” he said. “But I don’t think this dog is going to have an issue.”
Mahoney said Ike will stay on as Neo learns the ropes — the plan is to cross-train the dog in patrol and narcotics detection. But then Ike will say goodbye to work dog life, and Officer Patrick Epps, who joined the department two summers ago, will step up to handle Neo.
The duo will join Officer Patrick Flanagan and K-9 Tonka, a German shepherd, on the road.
In the past few weeks, Montville and New London police also have announced the purchase of K-9s. Groton Town police additionally launched a fundraising campaign to bring their force back to three K-9 teams strong.
Mahoney said the sudden influx of local dogs isn’t as uncommon as one might think. Many area departments started their K-9 programs around the same time, he said, and thus see their dogs retire about the same time.
It’s a bonus for the region that several of the dogs likely will train together, Mahoney said. Consider, for example, a case in which Waterford doesn’t have any K-9s on duty and calls for a K-9 unit from New London.
“What you want is a dog that you know how it’s trained,” he said. “You want officers in either town to understand how the handler and the dog are going to react to certain situations and commands.”
Mahoney said “a really generous donation” made Waterford’s purchase possible. He estimated K-9 Neo, obtained from Shallow Creek Kennels in Sharpsville, Pa., cost about $8,500. The department additionally has funding set aside in its budget to cover the costs of training for Epps and his new partner.
Once trained, Neo, like other police dogs, will offer many skills that humans sometimes can’t. He’ll be able to track criminals as well as missing children and adults. He’ll be able to seek out drug-related evidence as the nation’s opioid crisis grows worse. He’ll scare offenders into backing down so no one gets hurt during arrests. And he’ll interact with the public during countless demonstrations.
“I expect this to be another in a long line of really good dogs we’ve had,” Mahoney said. “An awful lot of that has to do with Dan Lane and his commitment not only at work, but also outside of work. He’s a tremendous asset not only to Waterford police, but to departments around the region and across the state.”
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