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Mercer County Sheriff's Office K-9 Officers Usher in ‘Dog Days’ at MCCC

11/2/18


Officer Mike Mullen with the Mercer County Sheriff's Office demonstrates the skills of Bodhi, a bomb-sniffing dog, during a session for MCCC Criminal Justice students.

MCCC Criminal Justice Professor Liz Bondurant participates in an attack dog simuation in this video.

WEST WINDSOR – The Mercer County’s Sheriff’s Office, with members of its K-9 unit in tow, visited Mercer County Community College (MCCC) on Oct. 29 for a canine demonstration to the College’s Criminal Justice Students.

The Sheriff’s Office was also joined by Doug Montgomery, a member of the West Windsor Police Department.

And, as has become tradition, Elizabeth Bondurant, associate professor of Criminal Justice, took the stage as one of the dog’s targets. Bondurant, a former Plainsboro Township police chief, simulated an attack with Porter, a 9-year-old German Shepard.

“We host the annual event each fall semester and the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office has always lead the event,” Bondurant said. “The students learn about K-9 units in certain Criminal Justice classes, but to see the K-9 officers in-person and watch them work reinforces what we teach in class.”

Led by Officer Pasquale “Pat” Papero, who was named the county’s 2017 officer of the year, the demonstration introduced students to five of the county’s K-9 members which include dogs trained for bomb searching and people finding operations. The office runs a 14-week course to train these dogs.

“K-9 is a very close unit,” officer Papero said of Bondurant and Montgomery’s inclusion. “You do something stupid in South Jersey and everybody will know about it by lunch time.”

Papero noted that despite the serious nature of the work, the training and workload is veiled as enjoyment for the dogs. For some dogs, including Flash, the department’s three-year-old bloodhound, food is the primary motivator. After hunting down a target, whether in simulation or in the field, Flash earns a hot dog as thanks.

The reward is well-deserved. Members of the K-9 unit regularly work in complex environments, and without proper training, would be susceptible to misinformation. The officers acknowledged that despite a crowd of some 100 students, faculty and public in attendance, the dogs are discerning a target as onlookers shed about 50 million scent-infused skin cells per second.

And even though the K-9 officers are participating in some serious business, Papero said the dogs enjoy what they do.

“Everything we do is for fun,” Papero said. If [the dogs] find a person, we feed them. They find a towel; we play with them.” For the compliance demonstration, which saw either of the two German Shepherds lunge at the officers wearing a padded arm sleeve, they were rewarded with plenty of pats, scratches and even twirls through the air.

The officers also explained that jobs do not interfere with leading an otherwise normal canine life. Each of the dogs lives at home with their corresponding officers, often interacting with family members like any other household pet. Bloodhounds are generally the exception – their heavy smell and profuse saliva production usually relegates them to more private, albeit plush accommodations, as was the case for Flash.

On the job, the county’s K-9 unit has provided coverage of events drawing both local and international crowds. The dogs at the demonstration have assisted in events ranging in size from 200-visitor concerts in Mercer County Park, to large-scale productions like Miss America pageants and the Super Bowl.

In addition to event coverage, the K-9 unit also adds to the department’s diversity as many of the showcased dogs come from overseas breeders. Papero noted that the dogs even come equipped with equivalents of passports that inform owners of birth information as well as shots and other details.

Students in Mercer's Criminal Justice program earn an associate in science degree. They may major in either Law Enforcement or Corrections. Learn more about the Criminal Justice Club here. More about the program curriculum is available here.

Criminal Justice Program Website

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