WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Justice and Storm became the first-ever members of the White Plains Police Department's K-9 unit when Public Safety Commissioner David Chong placed custom police shields on their collars during a graduation ceremony Friday in front of police headquarters.
Chong said his daughter and her first-grade friends came up with the names for the two German shepherds. Justice was trained to detect drugs, and Storm was trained to detect explosives and weapons.
"Now that they're graduated, they will be immediately implemented into the system, and they're available for backup for helping officers on patrol," Chong said.
Both K-9s achieved certification from the state Department of Criminal Justice Services by completing a 17-week program in which they went through obedience training, then received training in their specific fields.
Yonkers Police Officer Chris Barca, a 12-year K-9 handler who has trained other handlers for four years, taught Detective Matthew Kittelstad, who is teamed with Justice, and Officer Brian Johnson, teamed with Storm, how to be handlers.
Kittelstad and Johnson were chosen from a field of 40 interested officers, Chong said. The K-9 unit has been a dream for the department for a while, he said. The unit was entirely funded by private donations, including from the Fenway Golf Club committee, which has tried to meet the needs of the city's emergency services through charitable donations.
Fred Feldman, committee member and former chairman, said the committee raised $15,000 for the two K-9s.
"We ask the fire and police departments, and the hospitals, what they need," said Feldman, who added the committee has raised around a half-million dollars for community services since its inception in 2001. "We feel its a great way to give back to the community."
Chong also presented certificates to several other community partners who contributed funds for the two K-9s. He introduced Dr. Maria Lagana and Dr. Sandy Taraolff of the Animal Hospital of White Plains as the department veterinarians.
Mayor Thomas Roach noted that he takes his cats to the Animal Hospital of White Plains.