AP NEWS

Bridgeport PD acquires police dog for bomb detection

October 25, 2018 GMT

BRIGEPORT — The city has an additional line of defense when it comes to bomb detection now that Dennis, the police department’s new bomb sniffing dog, is on the force.

Dennis joined the Bridgeport police force as a partner to his two-legged handler, Sgt. Erick Norton.

Police Chief Armando Perez said Dennis is an essential add-on for Bridgeport police. He said the main reason the department was looking for an explosive detective K9 was so they didn’t have to rely on other agencies in the case of an emergency.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve had a lot of false alarms,” Perez said. “We have to investigate every one like they’re still real, especially in schools.”

In the past, Perez said, Bridgeport has relied on the Connecticut State Police or the Department of Corrections for bomb detection dogs. But having their own will allow for a quicker response.

Lt. Paul Grech said typically getting a dog like this is a difficult and lengthy process. But that wasn’t the case for Dennis, who was born in Holland and trained as a U.S. Department of Defense contract military dog for Afghanistan.

“He was originally assigned to the Department of Defense to go over to Afghanistan,” Grech said.

But that tour was altered and Dennis’ overseas contract was canceled and he came back to the U.S., ready to join an agency.

“He came back here very trained,” Grech said.

Norton, a 20-year veteran of the Bridgeport police force, was picked to be Dennis’ handler based on his experience — he’s in charge of the department’s K9 unit and serves as the executive officer for the police department’s Emergency Services Unit.

Grech said the initial costs for a bomb sniffing dog would have cost the department roughly $20,000. But this dog was donated to the department by Jeff Hickey and his family, in memory of Jeff’s father Dennis Hickey. The dog even took on Dennis Hickey’s first name.

The Hickey’s donation covered the cost of Dennis, the necessary training and the cost of equipment — including a bullet-proof vest. The vest has been ordered, Grech said, and should arrive within about six months. He said these vests usually cost a few thousand dollars.

Back in 1973, Jeff Hickey’s father Dennis Hickey founded Sonitrol Security Systems with his wife Joan Hickey. The system was installed at Central High School in 1976.

Today, all Bridgeport schools and municipal buildings use Sonitrol.

Dennis Hickey died about two years ago from a brain tumor, Jeff Hickey said Thursday.

“We decided that ... we wanted to do something for him,” Jeff Hickey said.

He said he was talking with a deputy chief earlier this year about the Bridgeport Police Department, an agency his family has worked with for years, and they mentioned they were looking for a bomb detection dog.

The family was able to get K9 Dennis for Bridgeport police in April. He’s been working with Norton over the last few months and got certified sometime in August.

“We thought it was a great idea to find a dog for this,” Jeff Hickey said. “We’re doing anything we can to help, to keep things safe. We enjoyed doing it.”