When the New Jersey attorney general forced the Berlin police department to shut down the scent work of its K-9 Radko, the force needed to find a replacement.
Officer Steve Palma, head of the Berlin police K-9 unit, consulted the director of the Atlantic County Police Training Center, and after a long search, was introduced to 16-month-old Clyde.
The Labrador Retriever was donated to the force by the John “Sonny” Burke Canine Academy in Atlantic County, known as the “Taj Mahal” of canine training. After a 12-week training course with Palma, Clyde was certified in odor detection for cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and crack cocaine.
The only hurdle left was introducing Clyde to Radko, the department’s other K-9.
“At the beginning, we had to take it very slow,” Palma said. “We had to introduce them but keep them separate. Radko is an absolute alpha male type of dog.”
The officer said the dogs are now friends.
“Now they both can hangout in the yard and play with one another,” he noted. “We think they get along very well. I was a little surprised, but now they are good.”
While the two canines may be friends off duty, they do not interact on the job, or when responding to calls. And the majority of K-9 responsibilities on the force have now been passed on to Clyde, since Radko is no longer the lead dog.
“It all comes down to case by case calls when I decide which dog I’m going to use,” Palma explained. “But right now, I’d say Clyde is going to get about 97 percent of all the calls.”
Canine training does not stop once a dog is introduced to the force, according to Palma, who said Clyde and Radko go to in-service training about twice a week.
Unfortunately, national canine training has come to a halt because of COVID. Palma recalled attending training with Radko in a number of states. The officer is optimistic that Clyde will get the same rigorous training that Radko did. Palma also sings the praises of K-9s who work with police.
“They are really helpful to law enforcement,” he said. “Specifically, they help us get illegal narcotics off the streets. We’ve seen them (narcotics) come into the suburbs now, too, so the dogs assist with that.”