The Princeton Police Department has acquired its first K9 Unit. The Department’s newest recruit, K9 Officer Harris, a 16-month-old Czech Shepherd, served his first day of active duty on Friday, June 13.
K9 Harris has been in training since March and is a recent graduate of the New Jersey State Police K9 Academy, where he trained in specialty scent detection.
Handler Corporal Matthew Solovay graduated alongside him from the 14-week training course. Mr. Solovay has been with Princeton Police for 9 years.
The New Jersey State Police Canine Academy’s rigorous training typically includes obedience, agility, tracking, and narcotic and explosive detection.
According to Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, the job of a K-9 handler “is a 24-hour-a-day obligation and requires a long term commitment from handlers and their families. Our communities are safer with the addition of these canine teams.”
K9 Harris will live with Mr. Solovay. Man and dog form part of the New Jersey Detect and Render Safe Task Force, a state, county, and local collaboration supported by federal grant funds and coordinated by the New Jersey State Police. The task force is designed to detect explosives before they can be detonated and cause harm.
K9 Harris will also help locate missing and/or endangered persons and track suspects fleeing apprehension. It is expected that he will be particularly useful in locating missing victims suffering from mind altering illnesses.
“We are proud and excited in welcoming our first ever K9 Unit to the police department,” said Police Chief Nicholas Sutter, who expects the unit “to be a vital component in our public safety efforts.”
Asked what had prompted the department to acquire a K9 Unit, Mr. Sutter said that PPD was approached by the Office of Homeland Security based on a number of factors including the amount of callouts the Department made per year for canine support as well as an assessment of the needs of the community.
Princeton Police have used dogs regularly, said Mr. Sutter. “In the past they have come from West Windsor, Lawrence, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, and the New Jersey State Police.”
The new unit was formed using federal funds and with the assistance of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. It is expected to cost the Department between $1,500 and $2,000 per year in out-of-pocket expenses for food and medical care, said Mr. Sutter.
K9 Harris is named in remembrance of Princeton Borough Police Officer Walter B. Harris, who was shot and killed in the line of duty on February 2, 1946. Born in Princeton, Mr. Harris grew up on Jackson Street and was living with his young family on John Street at the time of the shooting. He was 31 when he died from injuries sustained while attempting to pacify an altercation at the Witherspoon Social Club. He had served over two years with the Borough Police.
According to Mr. Sutter, the Department’s newest recruit, K9 Harris will be a “rookie” until he completes a year of service. He is expected to take part in a number of community outreach projects, said the police chief.
New Jersey’s State Police canine training program was created in 1987 as part of the Statewide Narcotics Task Force. Police K-9 teams assist with criminal investigations, recover evidence, and provide security in crowd control situations. Members of the NJSP Canine Unit also conduct over 100 lectures and demonstrations each year to police organizations, civic groups, schools, and children.