The Union County Sheriff’s K-9 Search and Rescue Unit was created in 1983 with one tracking dog, a Bloodhound, and has grown to the current level of 5 officers and 10 canines (5 cross-trained patrol/narcotics dogs and 5 explosives detection dogs). The unit currently utilizes German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers. These K9s can perform various functions in several different specialties such as (1) Patrol: searching buildings for hidden suspects, tracking suspects from the scene of a crime, tracking lost/missing persons, criminal apprehension, article searches for evidence, and handler protection (2) Scent: detection of narcotics or explosives.
All officers assigned to the K-9 Unit take their canine partners home with them. The K-9 Unit provides 24-hour coverage to all 21 municipalities within Union County as well as mutual aid to any other canine unit or police department in the State of New Jersey. Some officers and their explosives detection canines are also members of the New Jersey Detect and Render Safe Task Force.
The K-9 Unit is credited with thousands of narcotics arrests and millions of dollars in confiscated funds throughout the years. The members of this proud unit also served countless days at “Ground Zero” after the World Trade Center towers were attacked on September 11, 2001.
The K-9 Search and Rescue Unit is recognized as a statewide training facility. The K-9 Unit has a state certified Supervising K-9 Trainer and another state certified patrol and scent K-9 Trainer. The Unit has assisted in the training and creation of numerous K-9 units throughout the State. Numerous Federal, State, County and Local K-9 Units come to the K-9 training facility in Summit for initial training, bi-annual re-certification or monthly in-service training.
Patrol K-9 training is approximately 16 weeks. During that time, the K-9 team learns obedience, agility, criminal apprehension, tracking, building searches, article searches and handler protection. K-9 handlers are also taught first aid for their K-9, how to write K-9 deployment reports and are instructed on the laws and guidelines pertaining to the use of a police dog. The K-9 team is exposed to various situations and elements to prepare them for their career; they fly in helicopters, go on boats, swim in the water, track through every condition imaginable.
Scent K-9 training varies in length depending on the discipline the K-9 will be trained in. During that time, the K-9 is imprinted on target odors. Actual narcotics and explosives are used in this process. The K-9’s play drive is used to hunt/search for their reward. After the K-9 is imprinted with the target odor, the K-9 is taught how to search rooms, cars, fields, etc. for this odor and give an ‘indication’; narcotics K9s exhibit an aggressive indication, whereby they scratch (fetch) at source, while explosives detection K9s provide a passive indication, or sits at source.
The K-9 Search and Rescue Unit had the unfortunate incident of one of the K-9’s being shot and killed in the line of duty only days after searching Ground Zero in September of 2001. A memorial stands in Git Anders honor at the entrance to the K-9 Training Facility. The monument also contains the names of other dogs that have proudly served the Union County Sheriff’s Office and have passed.