SUMMIT, NJ - On Wednesday morning in Summit, man’s best friend showed he knows how to stop crime when the Union County Sheriff's K9 Unit held its rectification training.
The two day event featured 15 police units. All recertification training in northern New Jersey is done in Union County and takes place twice a year in the spring and fall. The Union County Sheriff's K9 Unit includes six handlers and 10 dogs.
The dogs practiced criminal apprehension, biting, tracking, simulated box and building searches, and even attacked one of the officers dressed in a full body Kevlar suit. The majority of the canines are trained as patrol and narcotics dogs, meaning they know how to apprehend criminals and sniff out drugs.
Sgt. Brian Howarth of the Union County Sheriff's Department who has been with the K9 unit for 15 years is the supervisor of the recertification event. Howarth, who has two dogs and one in training, said he loves his job and there isn’t anything else he would rather be doing.
The bonds he has formed with each of his dogs he treasures, he said. The State mandates that every dog must live with his handler; however, sheriff's department officers interview families about having the canine in the home and if they are not comfortable with it, the officer doesn’t proceed.
The dogs have two mindsets, Howarth said.
“They all know when the call comes in it's time to go to work,” Howarth said. “You can see their attitude change.”
Working with a dog is different, but quite rewarding, he said. Most people love their dog and don’t see him or her during the day because they work, but Howarth said he is extremely lucky to be able to spend all day with his dog. The one difference between having a partner and a canine is the need for a backup officer.
“I have the dog’s back and someone has my back,” he said.
They really make things easier in certain situations, Howarth said. In a building search or when looking for drugs, a dog helps very much, he said.
Detective Ron Callahan of Little Ferry has been on the job for 17 years. He is now with his third dog and really values the program. His three children love playing with Laszlo, but when duty calls, he switches gears and knows it’s time to get to work, Callahan said.
“It becomes a part of your family,” he said.