Ten-year Trumbull Police Department veteran Officer Richard “RJ” Carlson has a new addition to his family, Cyrus the police dog.
Since Cyrus and his owner graduated from the Connecticut State Police’s rigorous four-month K-9 training course in January, the capable pup has worked numerous cases, including tracking the suspect in the People’s United Bank robbery.
At the training academy, Carlson worked with Cyrus on obedience, tracking, evidence recovery, and handler protection.
So far, he said, Cyrus has had significant opportunity to make use of his training. “He’s been used quite a bit considering the town we’re in,” said Carlson.
Carlson, who has two children in his household under the age of three, said he continues to work with Cyrus at home, making sure to do at least half an hour of strict obedience training before going into the field every day.
But it isn’t always easy. “It’s like he’s a teenager. I have two kids and a teenager at home,” he said of the dog, who just turned 2.
At a recent Police Commission meeting, Police Chief Thomas Kiely and Deputy Chief Glenn Byrnes explained the exhaustive vetting process that led them to choose Carlson as the new K-9 unit’s first handler.
“We really put in more effort and we gave it a lot more attention than we normally would for the average assignment knowing that the handler here was going to make or break the whole program,” said Byrnes.
Kiely said that in August of 2010, Byrnes, working under the advisement of Sgt. Robert Brennan of the state police, made moves to restart the department’s K-9 program, which had been defunct for years.
When starting the program this time, Kiely said, “Basically we had no experience with K-9s. So we had to reach out, and John Cueto and Bobby Brennan have, combined, about 50 years experience with K-9s, and they’re excellent.”
Byrnes assembled a panel, which included Bridgeport Police Lt. John Cueto, a former K-9 unit chief, and Trumbull Lt. Keith Golding, to interview the top handler candidates.
Handler hopefuls were required to pass an agility test and were evaluated in numerous categories, including whether they had a genuine interest in the program and in dogs in general.
Carlson said he thinks Cyrus is a great police dog. “He does have a lot of puppy in him but when he does start to work it is a different dog, that I can tell you,” Carlson said.
“He’s a high energy dog which is a good thing, not a bad thing," he continued. "I’d rather have a dog like that than a dog that’s not ready to go. He’s always ready to go.”
To maintain discipline in the course of continued training, Officer Carlson and Cyrus will attend an eight-hour in-service class every month and will undergo evaluation twice a year.
Thus far, Carlson’s dog has also been used for a hit-and-run case, the June carjacking case, a drug arrest, a missing persons case in Monroe, and an incident with a stolen car.
Cyrus was also summoned for two crowd control calls, one for a fight at the and for another fight at Marisa’s Ristorante.
Cyrus, who Carlson chose with the special assistance of Bridgeport's Cueto, continues to get acclimated to the town and its people.
Carlson recently took Cyrus on a number of walk and talk” trips to get him used to moving in crowds, making six trips to the , one to the Hedgehog Circle community, and one to Bowtie Cinemas.
Carlson said he is confident that the dog will be close to fully trained in a year and a half. “All it is, is repetition with these dogs,” he said.
He said he hopes that Cyrus will enter the state’s drug training class next spring and become drug certified.
Other police affairs discussed at the commission meeting included new hires at the .
Right now, the police are finishing up conducting polygraph tests on the top candidates.
The top six candidates’ final interviews will take place in September. The deadline for filling the two open officer slots is Oct. 28.
In addition, Crimereports.com, the crime tracking service that was discontinued last year, is now back online.
Visitors to the site can track crime in their neighborhoods using interactive maps and can use analytics tools to track incidence over time and by percentage.
The data on the CrimeReports site comes directly from the Trumbull Police Department and is the same information officers use. Users can also sign up to receive free e-mail crime alerts.