Local police departments and correction agencies showcased their K-9 units to the public over the weekend, while also raising thousands for charity.
The 2010 CT K-9 Olympics – held at the University of Connecticut’s Depot Campus on Route 44 on Saturday – raised about $3,000 for various charities.
Part of the fun of the event is for the teams to appreciate each other’s skills.
UConn Police Lt. Hans Rhynhart said of UConn’s team, “We know, kind of, what we have here… It’s nice for other departments to see.”
UConn’s team of Officer Paul Osella and canine officer Benny were joined by Willimantic police’s tandem of Officer Paul Hussey and Zsmole (otherwise known simply as “Z”), as well as numerous other teams from across the state.
Lt. Rhynhart and Willimantic Lt. Mary Beth Curtis both said their canine tandems play an important role in police services.
“He’s an invaluable asset to our department,” Curtis said of Z.
Willimantic recently added a second police dog, Sasa, handled by Officer Javier Mercado.
Lt. Rhynhart said UConn is also in the process of getting another canine.
The process takes months of training, especially considering both departments use their dogs for a variety of tasks, including patrol, drug and article detection and missing person searches.
“I don’t think people realize the commitment it takes to be handler,” Curtis said, adding Hussey has to test Z daily to keep their collective skills sharp.
Rhynhart, meanwhile, said being a handler is a “24-hour job,” noting Osella takes Benny home with him at the end of a shift and also must care for his dog when Benny is sick.
But the presence of a police dog can change a scene entirely and state Department of Correction Lt. Henry Gasiorek said canines are even used in state prisons.
“For the lack of a better word, the dog’s presence stops (potential conflict),” he said, adding assaults on staff and other inmates dropped “significantly” since the DOC started using canines more than 15 years ago.
Award winners at the 2010 Connecticut Police K-9 Olympics included:
First Place – Officer Rob Sabourin and Blade, from the state Department of Correction
Second Place – Officer Todd Mona and Primo, from East Hartford.
Third Place – Officer Andre Cox and Kazi, from the DOC.
“Most Experienced Team” – Officer Paul Osella and Benny, from the University of Connecticut.
“Most Experienced Handler” – Officer Dan Murray of the DOC.
“Best Criminal Apprehension” – Officer Tina Mazzoccli and Bobby, of South Windsor.
Officer Shawn Dexter and Triton, of the DOC, were best in the obstacle course.
“Best Tactical Obedience” – Officer Rob Johnson and Dibbs, of Manchester.
“Best Obedience” – Officer Matt Lima and Judge, of Milford.
Posted July 19, 2010