He may be the newest officer on Washington Township’s police force, but it’s unlikely this rookie will be sent on a coffee run anytime soon.
Lync, the township’s newest K-9 officer and his partner Officer Kris Hice graduated from the John “Sonny” Burke Police K-9 Academy in Atlantic County last Friday after 16 weeks of hands-on training.
And while they’ve only been working together for five months, Hice said as he starts hitting the streets with his new partner, he has no doubt the rookie has his back.
“No matter where I go, I have back-up,” Hice said as Lync switched between playfully jumping against his chest and keeping watch on the goings on at the police station’s parking lot on Friday afternoon. “He doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t say ‘Why are we doing this?’ He’s 100 percent ready to go.”
The 2-year-old German Shepherd isn’t just the newest member of the police department, he’s also the newest member of Hice’s family.
“He’s adjusted to the family quickly —my kids and my two other dogs,” said Hice, a big “Rocky” fan who named Lync after one of the fictitious boxer’s turtles. “He’s like a regular house dog, but when it’s time for work, it’s time for work.”
Hice, an 11-year veteran of the department, said he’s always loved dogs and partnering with a K-9 is something he’s always wanted to do.
“The [K-9 handlers] here love what they do, and I wanted to try and do it,” he said.
Lt. Pat Gurcsik, who oversees the township’s K-9 program, said it was Hice’s “exemplary record” and time serving the department that made him the perfect candidate to become a K-9 handler, beating out five or six other officers who applied for the position. During his weeks and weeks of training, Lync and Hice worked mostly on obedience and tracking skills, and Hice said his new partner’s ability to track scents from 700 yards away, persistence in finding access to blocked targets and 100 percent accuracy blew him away.
Ptl. Kris Hice and his new K-9 partner, Lync, of the Washington Township Police Department, Friday, May 10, 2013. (Staff Photo by Brad Kingett/South Jersey Times)
“He’s pretty smart, and as great as it is, it’s only going to get better,” Hice said.
The cost of the nearly $7,000 price tag for Lync was donated by local resident and business owner Harry Vankawala afterCpl. Mike Conti’s K-9 partner Bach had to be put to sleep in January after battling cancer.
It’s the fourth dog the 30-plus year resident has donated to the department’s K-9 program, which is not included in the department’s budget and relies entirely on outside funding, since 1989.
“I loved the K9 unit from the beginning,” said Vankawala, who was honored at the academy graduation for his dedication to the department. “It is the safety of the community and the safety of the police officer also. It’s two things.”
Hice couldn’t agree more.
“Once people know there’s a dog here, it’s the most evening force,” he said. “It changes the game, people listen more, stop being unruly.”
That’s one of the reasons the K-9 unit is crucial for the department, said Gurcsik.
“Our K-9s are awfully busy. They’re always busy answering calls here in town and backing officers up,” Gurcsik said. “There’s one K-9 assigned to each platoon, so there’s a K-9 on duty 24 hours a day.”
A four-run kennel to house the dogs is currently in the works, after a successfulfundraising social in March raised more than $15,000 of the roughly $20,000 cost of the kennel. He said local trade unions have already volunteered to do much of the construction of the kennel, which will have air conditioning and heat, at no cost. Gurcsik said it’s important to have a place where officers who are on vacation or tied up in the station can house their partners and know they’re safe.
Currently, a dog whose handler is on vacation is housed at a kennel in a public works facility in Deptford. With blue prints currently being drawn up, Gurcsik said they’re aiming for a July start date on the construction of the kennel. It’s important to keep the dogs separate, he said, since they can be aggressive toward other K-9 officers.
Lync, who is currently trained to track scents of suspects, artifacts, missing children or any individual police need to locate, and Hice will be going back to the academy for a 12-week training course in narcotics detection in September.
In the meantime, Hice said the connection they’ve built will only improve as they work together patrolling the township.
“The bond grows stronger and stronger as I get to know him better, and he gets to know me,” he said.