ATLANTIC COUNTY - For the past couple of months, we've been giving you an inside look at the teams going through the Atlantic County K-9 Academy, and Friday the handlers and their four-legged partners graduated. The officers spoke about going through the program, and where they go from here.
It was a day of accomplishment for the 15 officers and their four-legged partners, who graduated from the Atlantic County K-9 Academy. Fridays ceremony comes at the end of 16 weeks of intense training, where the dogs and their handlers learned everything from apprehension, to agility and obedience, and tracking. 16 tough, long hard weeks, said Atlantic City Police Officer, John Devlin.
It felt like forever, laughed K-9 Officer Michael Calchi of the Millville Police Department.
The course was strict and the training intense, but those who went through it all say the end result was well worth the journey to get to this point. It's just been a great experience, said Devlin, you know, it was tough, but it was just worth every minute of it.
Best decision I ever made, said Calchi.
But not everyone made it through the rigorous course. Six dogs were released from the program and one handler in the 11th week, said Joe Rodriguez, the Supervising Trainer for the Academy, Just didn't make the cut. But trainers say those who did, are among the best, and will serve their communities well. One of the best classes that ever came out of here.
The teams aren't done with the academy, they'll return once a month to be sure they remain proficient in all they've learned, and some will start a 14-week course in September for more specialized police work. They come back to cross train in either explosives or narcotics, explained Rodriguez.
Im gonna come back in September and Im looking forward to it, said K-9 Officer Robert Conforti, from Stafford Township Police Department.
Now the dogs and their handlers are ready to hit the streets in their respected communities and say they're anxious to get to work, and put to use all theyve learned. We're ready to go back, said Sgt. Bill Bontcue of the Vineland Police Department, 16 weeks, we're ready to go back.
I think the dog's almost more excited than I am, said Devlin.
This is the 42nd year for the John Sonny Burke K-9 Academy, and this year, the award given in his honor went to officer Robert Conforti with the Stafford Township Police Department. He was chosen by his classmates to receive the "best of the best" award.