West Windsor, N.J. – Mercer County Sheriff officers visited Mercer County Community College on Sept. 24 to introduce Criminal Justice students to the K-9 Unit of highly trained dogs that provide assistance to the police force.
According to Sgt. Chris Drew, the dogs are very effective in stopping a threat, as well as breaking up unruly crowds. “No one wants to be bitten by a dog,” he said.
In addition to crowd control, the K-9s are trained to sniff out explosives and drugs and to help in search and rescue. Included in the presentation were demonstrations on drug searches, and the chase of a perpetrator protected with a Kevlar sleeve and a full body suit. The dogs are taught to grab and hold the perpetrator in place, which helps avoid extensive injury.
One of the canines introduced to the students was an 8-year-old black German Shepherd named Esso, which Sgt. Drew informed them would be retiring soon due to his age.
“He’s saved me a couple times,” said Sgt. Drew, recalling one time when Esso’s keen senses helped him detect a perpetrator hiding in the bushes who had been missed by officers. Esso himself has had his share of field injuries, with a broken ear that has left it bent slightly.
While the unit’s German Shepherds are often bought from breeders, the officers confided that they usually don’t have any trouble finding bloodhounds to join the team. “They howl all night long and they also smell,” said Sgt. Drew, joking that their own bloodhound will smell 24 hours after they give him a bath due to the oils in his skin.
The dogs live with their assigned officer and have the opportunity to play just like any other dog. But when they arrive at the station in the morning, they know it’s time for work. The canines start their training at two years, and will train anywhere from 12 to 34 weeks before being assigned to the street, depending on the unit where they are assigned.
The K-9 Unit doesn’t discriminate between male and female canines, as both sexes have their positive attributes, explained Sgt. Drew. “The males tend to be more aggressive, but the females are less easily distracted.”
This was the second year the MCCC Criminal Justice Club hosted the demonstration for its students. Assisting Sgt. Drew in the demonstration were Sheriff Officers Pat Papero and his dog Nero, and Steve Caruso and his dog Porter.
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.