Police K9 teams from around New England traveled to the Town of Ledyard for their annual certifications Tuesday. Why would Ledyard be a destination for police certifications you may ask? The Town of Ledyard employs two Master Trainers from the North American Police Work Dog Association.
Sgt. Mike Ravenelle and Officer William Nott of the Ledyard Police Department are both former K9 handlers and are tasked with certifying teams when requested. On this particular day, two teams from New Hampshire, one from Rhode Island and three from Connecticut were on hand to receive certification in the area of Patrol and Narcotics.
These officers and their K9 partners certify as a team, meaning that without the officer, the K9 cannot be utilized by another handler and conversely, the officer cannot use another K9.
The certifications allow the officers and K9s to work as a team, which includes tracking, area searches, evidence recovery, building searches and criminal apprehension.
Narcotic certification entails the K9 recognizing the odors of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. The handler needs to be able to read the dog’s change in behavior once he's “in odor” and has alerted to its presence.
The narcotics certification took place at the Gales Ferry Volunteer Fire Company station and involved hiding the narcotics in the building, in a row of lockers, and in vehicles.
The K9 teams alert in two different ways with either an aggressive alert or passive alert. Aggressive alert K9s will scratch at the source of the odor indicating its presence and a passive alert K9 will sit/lay down and stare at the source of the odor.
Of the seven K9 teams here today (the Rhode Island Officer works with two separate dogs) only East Lyme’s Officer Lindsay Cutillo and her K9 partner Knox, a yellow Labrador, are passive alert.
K9 Knox ran into the room with all the enthusiasm as if he was chasing a squirrel and began working immediately with a simple command from Cutillo. K9 Knox quickly detected an odor and threw himself onto the floor and stared intensely at a filing cabinet, all the while wagging his tail. With Cutillo "calling” the find (the act of declaring an alert) and a positive response from Ravenelle, Officer Cutillo rewarded K9 Knox with his favorite toy – a colorful rubber ball.
Ringo, on the other hand, is one of Ledyard’s dogs and was just as enthusiastic but passive he was not. As soon as Ringo was let off his leash, he bounded and charged for the lockers. When Ringo detected a scent, he scratched at the doors with determined certainty. His correct find gained the affection and appreciation of his handler Officer Dan Gagnon and when the exercise is over, he got his favorite tug toy.
The certification process takes anywhere from 4-6 hours depending on the number of teams that are in attendance and the certifications are good for one year. The Connecticut contingent included officers from Ledyard, East Lyme and Rocky Hill. The Rhode Island officer is assigned to TF Green Airport and the New Hampshire officers were from Ossipee.