Just as training of the 612 new COs continues, so does the learning process for the two 2-year-old Hungarian-bred German Shepherds. After they successfully completed intensive 16-week drilling with the NYPD’s K-9 Unit at Fort Totten, Queens, they began more training on Rikers. At Totten, their curriculum included article searches, apprehension, tracking, agility and handler protection. On Rikers the instruction subjects include narcotics detection, perimeter patrol and
Lex, a black beauty, is assigned to the K-9 unit's commanding officer, captain Kathy Ladalia, who has been with DOC 18 years. Bullet, a handsome brown-and-tan, is assigned to C.O. Kenny Forte, a 15-year-veteran. Each Shepherd is a constant companion of its assigned officer who takes it home after work to further the bonding process.
The Department began its K-9 Unit 14 years ago this April 12, 1982, with a Captain, two handlers and three dogs. Their initial assignment was narcotic detection, a task for which canines are well suited because of their superior olfactory abilities. With training, the animals can be used to detect Marijuana, Hashish, Cocaine, Crack and their derivatives.
In April, 1992, the unit began its inmate-trailing program in which Belle, the lovable Bloodhound has played a starring role, preventing at least two escapes and tracking the route in an attempted escape.
Last fall, the unit expanded its patrol program beyond perimeters to certain other facility areas, under specific circumstances and conditions. "The presence of a trained canine on a leash with its handler/officer has a tremendously calming effect on whomever they encounter as they patrol an area," Capt. Ladalia observed.
In addition to the captain and CO Forte, the Canine Unit currently includes three other handler/officers (COs Serena Richardson, Martin Leo, and A. Paulauskas) and nine dogs.
Recently, the unit mourned the passing of Del, a 9-year-old German Shepherd who was certified by U.S. Customs for narcotics detection in 1989 and worked many years with CO Forte.
In addition to Lex, Bullet, and belle, the current K-9 roster includes five narcotics detection dogs and one German Shepherd "pup" to be trained for patrol work when of age. Until "Wyatt" was chosen recently as his name (after the Western lawman), he was simply called Puppy. Some still call him that. When Puppy's font legs are positioned on a man's shoulders while standing face-to-face, he can look the man in the eye.
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