RI State Police: K-9 Officer To Appear On Red Carpet, Film Debut

PROVIDENCE, RI—Lassie and Rin Tin Tin top the Hollywood A-list for top dogs, but some Rhode Island state police dogs are also coming up for their 15 minutes of fame on Thursday. That’s when the Providence Place Cinemas screen a new documentary, SEARCHDOG.

The red carpet event starts at 6 p.m., and the shows are at 7 and 7:30 p.m., state police said. Thursday night’s event is the Rhode Island premiere, although the film has already won prizes in Palm Beach and in Boston.

Here is a description from the press release.

Created over a period of five years, SEARCHDOG spotlights the efforts of retired Rhode Island State Police Sgt. Matthew Zarrella, former head of the Canine Unit, who is internationally recognized for his efforts to transform dogs considered unadoptable from local animal shelters into successful search and rescue dogs. It also highlights some of the Canine Unit’s searches for missing people, here in the woods and waterways of Rhode Island and as far away as Vietnam, where they helped recover the remains of an Air Force captain who’d been missing since his plane was shot down in 1966.

While SEARCHDOG primarily focuses on Zarrella’s work with search and rescue dogs, the movie also provides an overview of the dedication and commitment of several other current and former members of the Rhode Island State Police Canine Unit, which has played a vital role in patrol work and criminal investigations in Rhode Island and throughout the region for more than 80 years.

“Pretty much not a day goes by that you don’t need to use one for a narcotics search, or a suspect who runs away, or to find someone who’s gone missing – we’re constantly being called,” says Corporal Scott Carlsten, Canine Coordinator, who’s responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Canine Unit.

It currently includes 17 teams of dogs and handlers. The dogs include German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Labrador retrievers and two mixed breed dogs rescued from local shelters. Each is trained in general patrol work, as well as a specific discipline: five are trained to detect explosives; three search for missing people and cadavers; seven track narcotics; one identifies accelerants used in arson; and one is used to locate electronic media devices used in computers, tablets, cell phones and other equipment.

The Canine Unit has already responded to nearly 400 calls this year, Corporal Carlsten said. These range from searching for hidden computer drives and media cards in child pornography investigations to helping the Massachusetts State Police sweep Gillette Stadium for bombs before every home game of the New England Patriots and the streets of Boston prior to the Boston Marathon.

The film was produced and directed by an associate professor at URI, Mary Healey Jamiel, and a Boston attorney and producer, Elaine Rogers.