Dogs, handlers join the force

The State Police welcomed 12 new furry members to its force Friday.

The agency held a graduation ceremony for the new police dogs and their trooper handlers at the State Police Academy in Albany. Two of the 12 dogs will work in the Capital Region.

All of the canines are named after troopers who died in the line of duty.

The State Police launched its K-9 Unit in 1976 with three dogs. Its first mission was to protect Olympic athletes training in the Adirondacks ahead of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, and then protect everyone at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

State Police employ about 99 dogs. State Police dogs — a mix of German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois and bloodhounds — are donated by humane societies, citizens and breeders from all over the northeast. For the first eight months of 2018, State Police dogs have responded to more than 6,000 service calls.

A dog’s sociability, play, drive, aggression, agility and health are tested, and the best candidates are sent to the 20-week Basic Handler School in Cooperstown. There, the new handler and canine train for basic obedience, agility, handler protection, tracking, building searches, veterinary first aid, land navigation, and either narcotics or explosives detection.

Trooper Jason A. Miller and his new canine partner, Baker, will serve Troop G in the Capital Region.

Baker is named after Cpl. Leroy John Baker. The 33-year-old was accidentally electrocuted by a downed wire at a crash site on Aug. 24, 1930. Baker was the first trooper on the scene of a car crash that had snapped a utility pole on Johnstown Road in Caroga Lake, Fulton County. The corporal was trying to remove the pole from the highway when he touched a wire carrying 2,300 volts. He had served during World War I as a Marine and served the State Police for nine years.

Trooper Matthew P. Rufa and his new canine partner, Kinson, will serve Troop G.

Kinson is named after Cpl. Earl R. Wilkinson. The 28-year-old died May 24, 1942, while on active duty with the Army Air Corps. His bomber crashed in a swamp near Houlton, Me. He was a second lieutenant in the Air Corps.

Trooper Shawn C. Gourdine and his new canine partner, Ash, will serve Troop T on the Thruway.

Ash is named after Trooper Paul Ashburn. The 28-year-old stopped a car on the Thruway, just south of Albany, when he was struck and killed by a passing truck on July 26, 1983. The trooper was standing alongside the stopped vehicle when the truck veered from its lane and hit him. He was killed instantly. Ashburn had served the State Police for four years and was working out of the Albany headquarters for Troop T when he died.

Trooper Ulysses V. Matsoukas and his new canine partner, Dobbs, will serve Troop K in the Hudson Valley.

Dobbs is named after Trooper William F. Dobbs Jr. The 30-year-old was critically injured on Aug. 27, 1939, when his motorcycle crashed on the Taconic Parkway in LaGrange, Dutchess County. Dobbs was thrown from his motorcycle after hitting a car that had crashed into the guardrail and was wedged diagonally across the roadway. He later died of internal injuries. He had worked for the State Police for one year.

Trooper Edward E. Reiser III and his new canine partner, Dunn, will serve Troop K.

Dunn is named after Trooper Vincent A. Dunn. The 24-year-old was found unconscious behind the wheel of his car on Sept. 30, 1932, in Pawling, Dutchess County. Investigators believe Dunn fell asleep while patrolling and drove off the road, clipping one telephone pole before hitting another head-on. The three-year veteran of the State Police died of head injuries six hours after being found.

Trooper Kevin G. Wolensky and his new canine partner, Hover, will serve Troop K.

Hover is named after Trooper Charles E. Hover. The Army Air Corps lieutenant died in a plane crash over northern Italy on June 5, 1945. He had worked as a trooper for a year in the Capital Region before joining the Army.

Trooper Thomas K. Chadwick and his new partner, Gohery, will serve Troop L on Long Island.

Gohery is named after Trooper James R. Gohery, a 29-year-old who died in a motorcycle crash on Dec. 30, 1943, in Freeport, Nassau County. Goherty was taking evidence to the Wantagh station when it slipped from his hand. As he tried to pick the evidence up, he lost control of the motorcycle and hit a tree. He died of a head injury.

Trooper William M. Murray and his new canine partner, Stuewer, will serve Troop NYC.

Stuewer is named after Investigator Paul R. Stuewer. The 26-year State Police veteran died on Oct. 5, 2016, from cancer linked to his search-and-recovery work at ground zero in New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. He was assigned to the Drug Enforcement Task Force in New York City and lived in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife, their children and his parents.

Trooper Michael P. Schmit and his new canine partner, Nugent will serve Troop A in western New York.

Nugent is named after Trooper Jerome B. Nugent, a 25-year-old who died on Oct. 13, 1933, after he was thrown from his motorcycle in Sheridan, Chautauqua County, and suffered a fractured skull. He was on patrol at the time and an investigation revealed he crashed when a collie dog from a nearby farm house ran into his motorcycle’s front wheel. He was taken to the hospital but never regained consciousness. He had joined the State Police five years earlier.

Trooper James R. Bolszio and his new canine partner, Conrad, will serve Troop A.

Conrad is named after Trooper James D. Conrad, a 30-year-old who was killed Nov. 11, 1966, when a tractor trailer turned into his vehicle in Bath, Steuben County. The truck driver was charged with failing to yield the right-of-way. Conrad served in the Marine Corps and Air Force before he joined the State Police in 1962.

Trooper Kristopher R. Jones and his new canine partner, Semrov, will serve Troop C in the Southern Tier.

Semrov is named after Trooper Robert M. Semrov who was shot and killed on Jan. 27, 1973, during a traffic stop in Richfield Springs, Otsego County. Semrov had allowed the driver to go inside his house to retrieve a driver’s license but instead the man emerged with a .22 caliber rifle and shot Semrov through the trooper car windshield. He was first blinded by the glass fragments, then shot five times in the neck and head. Semrov struggled with the man before dying from his wounds. He joined the State Police in 1967.

Trooper Dale A. Buck and his new canine partner, Rylo, will serve Troop E in western New York.

Rylo is names after Trooper Darryl J. Burroughs Sr., who retired in 2011, after 28 years of service with the State Police. Burroughs died on May 25, 2016, from an illness linked to his search-and-recovery work at ground zero in New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. He is survived by his wife and five children.