Haddonfield Police Chief Cutler reveals plans for new K-9 unit

Patrol dog selected and named; training process ongoing

Patrolman Jacob Sorg a three-year veteran of the Haddonfield Police Department holds “Blue,” the department’s newest member and pride of the impending K9 unit, after Blue’s selection on Jan. 3.

This time next year, when the Haddonfield Police Department is expected to debut its K-9 unit, make sure to say hello to “Blue” and the man responsible for his care, Patrolman Jacob Sorg.

Sorg, a three-year veteran of the department, traveled to Westport, N.Y. — a town of just over 1,300 inhabitants situated along the banks of the southern portion of Lake Champlain — on Jan. 3 to select the force’s newest member.

As part of the community policing aspect of introducing the K-9 unit, the department held an online naming contest that was closed on the day Sorg arrived in Westport to make the selection. Out of the list of names submitted, Sorg was given three from which to choose, and decided on one that was appropriate for those who serve and protect.

“We’ve picked one out of a litter of 12 puppies. New York State troopers sent help to pick out the dog, because they’re experts at that sort of thing,” said Haddonfield Police Chief Jason Cutler. “Before a particular one was picked, there was a three-hour test for each of the dogs, all 12 were tested, and we found one we liked. Now, he’s doing tracking tests already. The dog which was selected tested positively in tracking at only 9 weeks old. He’s going to have further testing later this week. We’re 95 percent sure this is the one.”

Mayor Neal Rochford and Cutler announced in a joint statement just before Christmas the police department would be acquiring a canine.

After more than a year of research, the department approached the board of commissioners for its approval in establishing a K-9 unit. After reviewing a variety of cases where such a unit would have provided valuable assistance, the commissioners granted permission to acquire a bloodhound.

“Bloodhounds are cream of the crop when tracking scent. When we did the research, we found out we needed a specific kind of dog that worked best for that. We needed a patrol dog, but we weren’t really looking for a multi-purpose kind of dog like a German shepherd,” Cutler added.

A bloodhound is considered the best breed for tracking missing or lost persons and/or persons wanted by the police, which would be the primary duty for Blue once he hits the streets. In addition, a bloodhound’s temperament ensures it will be an excellent community dog.

“This is something Chief Cutler and Lt. Camiscioli had been working on for quite some time. They made a presentation to the commissioners, and the three of us were in agreement that this would be a worthwhile asset to the community policing efforts,” Rochford said in a conversation with The Sun on Dec. 18. “This is not a novelty; it is not a pet for the police department, but an asset to help us. Before, if we needed the use of such a dog, they were available to us, but they were an hour, hour-and-a-half away. This gives us the chance to provide assistance to other communities in the area if they have a need.”

Although Rochford initially estimated the new K-9 could be ready after a rigorous six-to-eight week training, Cutler stated there are actually different kinds of training involved that will push back the dog’s introduction further than anticipated.

Once Sorg returns from upstate New York, Blue will be sent to Atlantic County for a 10-week training course. After that, he is required to go through a 40-hour certification for the National Police Bloodhound Association. There is also the question of the personal and professional bonding between Sorg and his new partner, as Sorg will take on the responsibility of feeding, housing and caring for him.

Cutler said the introduction of a K-9 unit will be the department’s only move to expand policing efforts in the borough, though he’s open to new ideas in the near future.