SALEM — After long careers of rounding up criminals, ferreting out stashes of drugs and sweeping high-profile venues for bombs, three Salem County officers are retiring.
Honored by the Salem County freeholders Wednesday night, these officers are all four-legged — K-9s Frodo, Spartan and Titan.
The dogs are part of the Salem County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 Unit. They, along with their handlers, were recognized for their service at the Old Courthouse before a large crowd of supporters.
“We’re trained to do what’s right,” said Salem County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Rob Hans who heads the county K-9 Unit and whose partner, Spartan, is retiring.
Along with Hans, Sheriff’s Office K-9 Officers Micah Warren with Titan and Ian Todd with Frodo were at the special recognition.
The freeholder board’s resolutions adopted honoring the K-9s also turned over custody of the dogs from the county to their respective handlers to live out their retirement years at their homes.
Like their handlers, the K-9s have undergone extensive special training. Spartan and Titan specialized in patrol and narcotics detection while Frodo was trained to patrol and detect explosives.
The dogs and their human partners have been called upon to perform many types of missions both day and night inside and outside of the county.
The three dogs have been involved in numerous criminal apprehensions, narcotics confiscations.
They and their handlers respond at all hours when requested by Salem County law enforcement agencies. One of the most recent example was a fatal shooting outside a Penns Grove bar Sunday morning.
The K-9 Unit officers and their dogs respond not only to situations in Salem County but are also called out to aid other departments in other counties. The K-9s have been used at such high-profile events as the Super Bowl in North Jersey, Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia and the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City to sweep the venues for any hidden explosives.
The dogs are also familiar visitors locally performing demonstrations at community events ranging from large outdoor festivals to indoor events at schools, churches and even nursing home.
While on duty the dogs face the same dangers as their human handlers. In 2011, K-9 Jordan was shot during a standoff on East Broadway in Salem. Jordan recovered.
The dogs are now outfitted with custom bullet-proof vests.
While the dogs are part of the county’s K-9 Unit, a great amount of financial support for equipment, care and even funds for the purchase of the animals themselves comes from the Salem County K-9 Association, a private non-profit group supported by the local community.
Salem County Undersheriff Warren Mabey said the association has “literally donated tens of thousands of dollars” to support the county K-9 Unit.
“I think it is important to recognize the Salem County K-9 Association for their continued and generous financial support of our K-9 Unit … without them we would not be able to continue to provide the excellent level of service our K-9 squads do,” Mabey said.
Hans, who is founder of the association, also serves as its president.
“We love Salem County, we love helping out the community, we love doing our demonstrations … but our mission is to keep the community safe,” Hans told the crowd at Wednesday night’s retirement ceremony.
Spartan had officially been on duty for seven years, Frodo for 9 and a half and Titan for eight years in Salem County.
Hans, Todd and Warren already have now K-9 patrol partners on duty with them.
Hans is now teamed up with Bandit who specializes in patrol and explosives detection. The other two K-9s, Flash with Todd and Butch with Warren, are trained in patrol and narcotics detection.
The K-9 Unit also has a bloodhound, Oliver, who specializes in tracking lost humans, handed by Sheriff’s Officer Andrew Hecksher. At the Salem County Correctional Facility in Mannington Township is a fifth county K-9 in active duty, the semi-retired Roxy who is permanently assigned to narcotics patrol duty at the jail.