NEW YORK—Eight police officers and their dogs graduated the Explosive Detection Canine Class on June 14 in a ceremony at the Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan.
The police officers and their service dogs are part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department (MTAPD). They survey subways, buses, stations, and platforms, and inspect suspicious bags and packages.
“Our dogs take about 16 weeks to train for explosive detection,” said Lt. John Kerwick, Executive Officer of the MTAPD K9 Unit. “It normally takes 10 weeks to train these dogs, but we spend an additional 6 weeks to train the handlers to become experts in their field as well.”
The dogs receive brief obedience training, while the rest of the course focuses on detection, according to Sgt. William Finucane, the master trainer at the program.
“We get very high-energy dogs and we have to try and channel that energy,” said Finucane. “We have to channel the energy that the dog has so that the dog searches long and hard.”
But the training doesn’t stop there. Finucane said that the dogs will return for additional training sessions every month. A K9 team does not reach peak effectiveness until a year or a year-and-a-half of training, he added.
Police Officer and K9 handler Allan Fong said that the training was hard, but that it made his work with his dog easier. He is now looking forward to what lies ahead.
“It’s a very rewarding career. I enjoy it a lot,” Fong said. “I’ve been thinking about something like this probably for the past ten years, ever since making it as a police officer.”
Officers like Fong are required to bring their dogs back home. Fong’s dog is named “George” in memory of Police Officer George Wong who died of 9/11-related illness in 2011.
“He goes home to live with the handler and his family,” said Kerwick. “So he actually becomes a member of the family.”