Clarkstown Police Officer Michael Keane is excited to return to patrol duty for a variety of reasons.
Keane hasn’t been on patrol since March, and not only is he excited to get back to protecting Clarkstown in the near future, but he’ll be bringing along a new partner. Keane and his new partner have been training together since March, forming a strong bond that only grew when his new partner moved into Keane’s home to live with Keane, his wife, Margret, and their two children Kaitlyn, 9, and Dan, 6. Keane and his new partner are ready to get working, and Keane said the newest member of the Clarkstown PD will be a great asset to the community, not an officer that’s going to act out and need a short leash.
Well, maybe he’ll need a leash at times.
That’s because Keane’s new partner is Taz, a short-haired German Shepherd from the Czech Republic. And on Friday morning, Keane and Taz were one of nine K-9 units to graduate from K-9 Patrol School put on by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and held in Montgomery, NY, about an hour’s drive north from Clarkstown.
“[Being part of the K-9 unit] is just something I always wanted to do,” said Keane, who has been with the Clarkstown police since 2003. “I just wanted to be on the team because what they do is great. We can be utilized for my department and others.”
Taz is the third K-9 to join the Clarkstown Police Department, and Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan, who was on hand to watch Keane and Taz graduate, said they are a “tremendous resource” to have.
“The biggest thing they help with is search and recovery,” Sullivan said. “When we were looking for a murder suspect, Eric Lau, in the woods (of Valley Cottage), we set up a perimeter and then sent in a K-9, and he found him in about 20 minutes. So that’s the type of things they’re really good with.”
Keane said Taz will go back to school in the fall as part of the narcotics program, as will Shadow, the newest member of the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department. Shadow and his handler, Deputy Christopher Ford, also graduated on Friday. Ford said the Sheriff’s Department has three bomb dogs and an arson dog, and that Shadow is the department’s first German Shepherd, as the other four are all labs.
Ford, who’s been with the Sheriff’s Department for six years, said he too has wanted to join the K-9 unit for awhile, and once the announcement came the department was looking for people, he said he jumped at it. Both Keane and Ford said their respective K-9s are working out nicely at their homes. Keane already has a 13-year-old lab, Elwood, that he said Taz gets along with well, and Ford said he has a cat that mostly stays out of Shadow’s way.
“He’s terrific,” said Margret Keane. “He’s great with the kids.”
Michael Keane added that Taz “seems to have a switch. At home he’s very social and playful, and when we come into training, he was all about work.”
Ford said Shadow is also good with his two children, a four-year-old and two-year-old that tire Shadow out at home by running around with him.
“He’s young and full of energy,” Ford said of Shadow, who’s 20-months old and came from Slovakia.
The graduation opened with a short speech by Sgt. David Campbell of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who also trains the dogs at the school. He said the 16-week course taught the K-9s to find missing children, apprehend criminals and work in all different kinds of locations. After the ceremony, he said that it’s usually a yearly course, and this is the 19th graduating class. The size of the class, he said, varies based on need. He said the previous class before this year’s had 12 graduates, but he’s had classes with as few as two grads.
“Even since 9/11, K-9 use really grown, though,” he said. “People want bomb dogs and are really starting to see how these units can help out.”
He also said that the training is very physically demanding, as both the K-9 and handler are working in all conditions and they’re outside in all kinds of weather.
After each dog received a chain to signify their graduation, and handler was given a plaque, there was then a field demonstration. Campbell shouted orders at the handlers, who relayed them to their K-9s, such as marching in a certain direction, turning, sitting, laying down, staying when the handler walked away and other things along those lines. After that, the handlers and K-9s all took separate spots on the obstacle course and each K-9 ran through a different part of the course, including jumping hurdles, getting over a wall, walking on a balance beam and others.
After that, it was time for individual demonstrations. One K-9 had to find a toy in a large field using its scent, another had to sniff out which of five large boxes in a field had a person hiding inside of it. Another demonstration acted out a car stop, where the person being pulled over gets out of the car and fires at the officer, and then on the officer’s command, the K-9 leaps out of the car and attacks the shooter.
Keane and Taz had a demonstration on what to do if someone runs. The first time, Taz was told to stay when the person ran, and the next Taz was told to take off after him only to be told to hold up before reaching the runner. The last allowed Taz to run all the way, and he did, chasing down the runner shortly.
Taz actually came from a donation to the department by Craig Shultz, owner of Schultz Ford in Nanuet. Sullivan said Shultz agreed to donate a dog, and then the department picked one out.
“They really pay for themselves because of all they bring to the department,” Sullivan said. “They just make the community a safer place.”
K-9 Patrol Class #19 Graduating Class:Handler Department Canine Michael Keane Clarkstown PD Taz Greg Gaynor Haverstraw PD Chase Kevin Pimpinelli MTA Police Mullen Christopher Serio MTA Police Chester Brian McCormick MTA Police Burris Jon Gigantiello MTA Police Sarge Joseph Palermo Newburgh PD Ruger Andre Sanchez Ramapo PD Cerbie Christopher Ford RC Sheriff Shadow