RED BANK: COPS, COFFEE AND A NEW K-9

Eko, the department’s newest recruit, below, has been cleared by a veterinarian to begin training. He’ll join a K9 unit pioneered by Hunter, above, who’s partnered with Patrolman Stan Balmer. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Some news from Red Bank police…

The department will soon be getting a second tracker dog, redbankgreen has learned.

And the RBPD plans to host a “Coffee with a Cop” event offering community members an opportunity to mingle with police and talk about their concerns in an informal setting over coffee.

• The department’s newest recruit is a 17-month old Belgian Malinois named Eko (pronounced “echo”), said Chief Darren McConnell.

Eko is slated to begin 12 weeks of narcotics training next week, followed later in the year by 12 weeks of “patrol school,” McConnell said.

Assuming he passes his course, Eko will join Hunter, another Belgian Malinois who became the first four-legged member in department history two years ago.

Hunter is assigned full-time to Patrolman Stan Balmer, who takes him home as a family member when off-duty; Eko will partner up in the same way with Patrolman Tanner Shea, said McConnell.

Hunter’s addition was largely a result of a donation by mattress-industry maven Michael Fux, who covered nearly all the $50,000 cost, most of which was associated with purchasing and equipping a vehicle.

Eko, however, won’t require any special fundraising, McConnell said. At a cost of about $1,000, the department has repurposed a Ford Explorer it already owns for the dog’s needs. The cost of acquiring Eko was covered by proceeds from the sale of impounded vehicles that owners did not retrieve, McConnell said.

The additional dog “will give us seven-day-a-week coverage” with K9s, McConnell said. The dogs are valuable in executing warrants, sniffing out drugs and finding fugitives or missing persons, whether in Red Bank or other towns that might need an assist. “And just taking him along is a deterrent when somebody’s potentially violent,” McConnell said.

Hunter’s been deployed on about 200 K9 incidents over the past two years, and his presence doesn’t prevent Balmer from answering the same types of calls regular patrols respond to, McConnell said.

• Part of a national initiative by the federal Justice Department, the Coffee with a Cop program aims to advance community policing by improving relationships between police officers and residents one cup of coffee at a time.

Because the majority of contacts between law enforcement and the public occurs during emergencies or emotional situations, they’re not always the most effective times for relationship-building, McConnell said, and some community members may feel that officers are unapproachable on the street. Coffee with a Cop breaks down barriers and allows for a relaxed, one-on-one interaction.

All community members are invited to attend. The event, scheduled for Tuesday, April 4, runs from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at Readie’s Café, 39 Broad Street. For more information, contact Patrolman Jorge Torres at 732-530-2777, extension 5211, or jtorres@redbanknj.org.

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