HOPATCONG, NJ – The walls of the council chamber were lined with police officers from the borough, Madison, and the Sussex County Sheriff’s Department; and the chairs were full of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts gathered to honor a colleague who wore a harness rather than a uniform.

Council devoted the first segment of the Wednesday, Sept. 5, meeting to a testimonial to a fallen police officer, Rosco, the K-9 officer, who died July 23.

Mayor Sylvia Petillo proclaimed Sept. 5, Detective Luciani and Rosco Day.

Sign Up for E-News

Rosco, a bloodhound, was a member of the borough police force for seven years, partnering with Detective Michael Luciani.

It was Luciani who first believed Hopatcong needed a K-9 officer. Councilwoman Estelle Klein secured a $250 donation from the Animal Haven so Luciani could attend a training session at the National Police Association, according to Petillo’s talk at the tribute. At the workship, Luciani met Bob Stevens, a bloodhound breeder and worked with one of Stevens’ dogs.

Stevens offered to donate a bloodhound pup and Luciani drove to Douglas, Mass., where he adopted a 13 1/2 –week-old puppy, and named him Rosco.

Police dogs are not only partnered with an officer, they become a member of the family, and Rosco bonded not only with Luciani, but with the entire Luciani family. The first two rows of the audience at the council meeting were full of members of the family armed with cell-phone cameras and tissues.

Petillo mentioned some of Rosco’s achievements, such as finding a three-year-old boy, and his family dog who wandered off. She also mentioned his rescue of a woman lost in Stokes State Forest.

Rosco helped out area police department and the sheriff’s department. Undersheriff Keith Armstrong spoke at the tribute, noting, “humans have limitations, canines don’t.”

Lt. Jerry Mantone of the Madison Police Department told the assembly his department borrowed Rosco for National Night Out for two years as guest of honor, and to help officers go around neighborhoods to let people know about the celebration.

Rosco was also an honorary member of Cub Scout Pack 88, and joined the boys on hikes and other activities.

Eagle Scout Stephen Duncan of Boy Scout Troop 91 of Stanhope told the crowd how his Eagle project was to construct a kennel at the police station to match the one at the Luciani home, so Rosco could stay outside when he was at headquarters if he chose.

A tearful Luciani told the press Rosco was, “one of the best dogs I’ve ever known.”

“He had fun, but knew how to work,” Luciani said. 

Luciani said most of the speakers talked about Rosco’s rescue work, but he also assisted in criminal investigations. He additionally went to parades, and into the schools. The detective was the Hopatcong High School resource officer when he got Rosco and brought him into the school right from the beginning. He also brought him into elementary schools and day cares.

“He was great with kids,” Luciani said.

Photos and a slide show running during the tribute illustrated Rosco had his goofy bloodhound behavior, but was all business when his harness was on.

Hopatcong is working on acquiring another police dog, but Petillo said Rosco will never be forgotten.