Fourth dog means New London police K-9 unit will be fully 'manned'

New London — It’s taken a few years, but the New London Police Department is expecting a fully resurrected K-9 unit by this spring.

The local police union on Thursday announced the purchase of a Labrador retriever from a vendor in West Virginia that is currently being “imprinted,” or trained to detect the scent of a variety of drugs.

The dog is expected to join the force in the spring and will be paired with a handler, offering another investigative tool for the department to combat the illicit drug trade, New London police Capt. Brian Wright said. It also will be a resource for surrounding law enforcement agencies.

The new dog will become a part of the fourth K-9 team at the department, fulfilling an ordinance passed by the City Council in 2013 in response to what many considered a dismantling of the K-9 unit.

The department was down to one K-9 team, which included a bloodhound, under former Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, who had raised concerns about “biting dogs” and the liability exposure for the city. His veto of an ordinance mandating four dogs was overridden by the City Council.

Police Union President Todd Lynch said the union, through a series of fundraisers and the generosity of the community, paid for the lab and has played a major role in rebuilding the K-9 unit.

In 2017 the union set a goal of $28,000 to pay for the four dogs. Lynch said the union surpassed the goal by more than $2,000. The remaining money, kept in union coffers, will be used to pay for expenses related to the revitalized K-9 unit, such as equipment, training and veterinarian bills.

The unit now boasts three dogs, a German shepherd and two Belgian Malinois. The teams are: Officer Chris Bunkley and Iris, Officer Joe Kandash and Jesse, and John Michaud and Whaler. A plan pitched by former police Chief Margaret Ackley to purchase a giant Schnauzer as a patrol dog never quite gained traction.

All are patrol dogs and two are cross-trained in narcotics detection. The new dog will be used strictly for drug investigations.

Lynch, a former sergeant and commander of the state police Canine Training Unit, who spent more than a decade with a canine partner in New London, said the training of a handler would be performed in-house.

Wright said administration at the department will call for volunteers who want to be a handler.

The New London Police Department’s K-9 units have a decorated history that includes winning the Wasson Award for the state’s top K-9 teams five times between 1998 and 2008.

The union no longer is seeking donations for the K-9 unit.

g.smith@theday.com

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