The Bergen County Police Department Canine Unit was established in 1975 with two Police Officers and two German Shepherd Dogs. The initial K9 teams were trained by the Philadelphia Police Department to aid investigations using their keen sense of smell for tracking and building searches. In the 30 plus years that the unit has been in existence it has evolved into a full time, full service K9 unit serving the law enforcement agencies of the region and the residents of Bergen County with comprehensive K9 functions. These functions include:
The Unit is currently comprised of dual purpose K-9 teams cross-trained in Narcotics detection, Explosive detection and Accelerant detection for arson investigation. Since its inception, the K9 Unit has responded to over 25,000 calls for service from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Since the K-9 Unit was established, it has been responsible for the seizure large quantities of controlled substances, the apprehension of numerous criminal actors, locating missing persons, locating evidence and proceeds from crimes scenes, and the seizure of large amounts of currency used in criminal activity.
The K-9 Unit is assigned to the Special Operations Division and is an integral part of the Bergen County Police Department Patrol's mission to provide professional services to local law enforcement and the residents of Bergen County. The success of the K-9 Unit is evident by its many awards received from professional and civic associations. The unit has also been featured in newspaper articles, professional articles, and publications.
K-9 UNIT FACTS
The K-9 Unit currently has teams consisting of K-9 handlers and German Shepherd Dogs. These dogs are imported from Europe (we have received dogs from Germany, Hungary, Holland, and the Czech Republic) where they are bred to be working dogs (Police Service, Military, or the private sector). Each dog is purchased with asset forfeiture funds or through donations received from individuals or organizations. When we receive the dogs they are generally between 12 and 24 months old and each dog is assigned to one handler, the team will then undergo approximately 16 weeks of intensive patrol training before being assigned to active service. After completing this initial training, they will then undergo an additional 10 weeks of specialized training in either narcotics detection or explosives detection (this is referred to as “cross-trained” or “dual-purpose” training).
Each Officer in the K-9 Unit is assigned a vehicle which is specially equipped to transport his K-9 partner and they are available for service calls 24hrs a day. The dogs live at home with the officer and their families and the Officer is responsible for feeding, grooming and care of the dog. Generally, the canine team's service life together is 5 to 7 years. When the dog is taken out of active service, it remains with the handler and continues to be a part of their family.
The initial training for a new K-9 team is a 2 step process, first, selecting a qualified Officer and second, selecting a dog. In order to be considered for a position in the Unit an Officer must have a minimum of 3 years as a sworn Police Officer, be physically fit and have an exceptional service record as a patrol officer.
When selecting a dog, we generally look for one that has a high “drive” and a good temperament. When the dogs are initially selected, they usually have a basic understanding of obedience, with some tracking and handler protection. Other dogs are “green” which means they have very little or no training at all.
Once a handler and his canine partner are matched up, they will begin the basic patrol training during which the handler and dog will develop a bond and be able to work effectively together as a team. During the basic training period, an emphasis is placed on obedience training which becomes the foundation for all of the functions performed by the canine team. A handler must have complete control of the dog at all times for the team to be successful. Some of the skills which are learned during this training are: tracking, building searches, open area searches (fields, industrial areas, rail yards etc.), evidence searches, criminal apprehension, and handler protection.
After successfully completing basic training, the team will begin specialized training. These areas include narcotics detection, explosive detection, and accelerant detection. The canines are trained to locate and “alert” or “indicate” the presence of the specific odor they are trained to detect (i.e. controlled substances, explosives, flammable liquids).
Upon completion of this training, the dog teams must pass an annual certification to demonstrate competence in each skill. In order to remain proficient, all teams train together once a month and each handler is expected to train individually on a regular basis.
DOGS, HANDLERS, AGE, BREED, PLACE OF BIRTH, SPECIALTY