Looking a little sleepy at the end of his first day on the job, Hunter relaxes with his handler, Patrolman Stan Balmer. Below, the pair with the new vehicle that will be assigned to them once it’s rigged up. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
The newest member of the Red Bank police department got a tour of the town Wednesday, acquainting himself with the streets and train station. At day’s end, a bit sleepy-eyed, he took a leak behind the police station.
His name is Hunter, he’s 20 months old, and he’s the first official police dog in the borough’s history.
The K9 program, which cost about $50,000 to cover the acquisition of the dog and a dedicated vehicle, was funded largely by a donation from mattress millionaire Michael Fux.
Hunter will partner with Patrolman Stan Balmer, who was back to on the patrol rotation Wednesday after 17 weeks of K9 school in Long Branch.
“The instructor felt he wasn’t up to par,” said Balmer. Shelly’s School for Dogs in Millstone, which had imported him from Spain, made the replacement about halfway through the training program at no charge.
Balmer, who joined the RBPD in 2011 after stints with the Long Branch PD and the Monmouth sheriff’s office, said Hunter is a sociable animal who’s good with children. But it’s advisable to ask permission before approaching and petting him, he said.
The creation of the program fulfills a desire that Chief Darren McConnell has harbored since he joined the department 26 years ago. Over the years, “there have been plenty of cases where we probably could have gotten further, faster with our investigations if we had our own dog available” instead of having to rely on help from other towns or the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, he said.
McConnell said Hunter will be used on all warranted searches, mostly involving narcotics detection, and searches for missing persons and suspects. At present, he’s certified for apprehension and evidence recovery; the training in narcotics will come this spring, said Balmer.
A new black Ford Explorer purchased to serve as the K9 car is awaiting finishing accessories. Among its gadgetry is a system to alert Balmer if the temperature rises in the vehicle when he’s away from it and the dog is inside.
As for Rugger, who was already living with Balmer, “he’s now a family pet,” Balmer said. “He’s enjoying the cushy life at home. He bonded with the family pretty quickly.”