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      Jean Sullivan
      Communications Director
      732-473-3100 x 3060

    Page Title| Happenings News Stories  2011


    March 22, 2011

    Jean Sullivian, March 22, 2011

    Caption: Law & Public Safety students look on as NJ Transit Officer Jerome Morse rewards his canine partner Buddy for his successful detection during demonstration.

    OCEAN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY When does a backpack left on a bench become a suspicious package or a commuter become a person of interest? These were just a few topics which were addressed when several members of the New Jersey Transit Police K9 Unit visited students from the Ocean County Vocational Technical School’s Law & Public Safety program in Waretown.

    This presentation, along with countless other demonstrations and field trips are all part of a comprehensive training program for area high school students with a serious interest in pursuing a career in law enforcement. This particular presentation focused on the use of canines as invaluable tools in the ongoing efforts to stem terroristic threats on American soil. New Jersey Transit Police are responsible for safety on mass transit particularly busses and commuter trains. NJ Transit Officer Sgt. Michael Clarkson explained the difficulties in monitoring safety in what he described as “rolling communities of people; one bus can carry over 100 people while a train can carry about 1200.We are constantly assessing current conditions and current threats. In any given situation we create a baseline of what would be considered normal behavior and then assess what we feel is out of place.”

    Sgt. Clarkson explained that the K9 Unit did not exist before the terrorist attacks on 9/11. “The majority of the dogs are trained to detect explosives.” The dogs are acquired from oversees where their bloodlines are very closely monitored and documented. Due to the time, effort and expense involved in training a canine and its handler, it is imperative that breeds with a strong history of good health and longevity are chosen. German shepherds are the canine of choice in the NJ Transit Unit. “German Shepherds provide an omnipresence,” explained Sgt. Clarkson, “the general public can never assume what this particular breed is being used for in any given situation.’ Other breeds of dogs used for various purposes, such as tracking a missing person can appear less threatening.

    Officer Elaine Donnadio, who recently completed her initial training with the K9 Unit explained the career path that led her to her current position. With a strong desire to enter the field of law enforcement she trained to become a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician as well as a volunteer firefighter. The first call she responded to with her newly acquired skills was the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. There, as she participated in the rescue and recovery of victims she closely observed trained canines and their handlers working tirelessly in the search. It was at that time that she set her personal goal to become a handler. “In 2001 I set that goal for myself and now in 2011 I have reached my goal,” she explained.

    Officer Jerome Morse and his 3-year old dog Buddy then proceeded with a demonstration. The German Shepherd began a methodical search around the confines of the garage area at the Fire and First Aid Training Center in Waretown, where the Law & Public Safety Program is housed. Sgt. Clarkson explained that the dogs are trained to detect the individual chemical elements that make up explosive devices. This training is called imprinting. As soon as Buddy detected a scent he alerted his handler with a change in behavior. Immediately the dog was rewarded.

    The dogs and their handlers must complete a ten-week course which involves dog obedience training as well as fostering a relationship between dog and handler to learn behaviors, body language and bonding. A canine and his handler are together 24 hours a day; working together as well assimilating into the off-duty lifestyle of the officer.

    The Law & Public Safety Program at Ocean County Vocational Technical School explores the role of law and public safety in the United States and career opportunities in various law enforcement agencies. The functions and day-to-day activities of law and public safety professionals from local, county, state, and federal agencies are examined. Successful completion of this two-year high school program prepares students for First Responder and Special Police Officer I certification. The program is located at the Ocean County Fire and First Aid Training Center, in Waretown New Jersey, where students have access to this state-of-the-art training facility.

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