A City So Tough the New Police Dogs Shoot

Apache, a two-year-old German shepherd, tracked the suspect down a pitch-black passageway in the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall subway station the other day, helped by the oldest of canine technology, his nose, and bearing the newest, an infrared camera harnessed to his back.

The camera transmitted images in real time to one of Apache’s trainers, Officer Richard Geraci, who stood a safe distance away as he followed the dog’s movements on a small monitor strapped to his wrist like an oversize watch.

The suspect was actually another officer and the exercise was part of a recent six-hour training session for Apache and his fellow trainees — Tank, Elvis and Ranger — who are the newest members of the Police Department’s transit bureau K-9 unit.

Officer Geraci and Officer Wayne Rothschild were leading the dogs and their handlers through exercises in criminal apprehension, tracking and agility, starting on Roosevelt Island and moving to Battery Park and the Brooklyn Bridge station before ending in the now-closed subway station known as the “old City Hall” station.

The current group of dogs, whose training started in September and ends in February, are the first New York Police Department dogs to be outfitted with a $9,000 infrared camera, the same type used by the Navy Seals in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound last year. A total of about 100 dogs work for the Police Department in Emergency Services, narcotics, the bomb squad and the transit bureau, which has about 30.

The camera allows officers to see what is happening and who might be lurking in dark areas like some parts of the subterranean system, the police said. In the event of an accident or a terrorist act, dogs with cameras might be able to get to spaces that officers cannot.

“The cameras can save officers’ lives by enabling us to see what’s down the field before we go there,” said Lt. John Pappas, who has led the transit bureau K9 unit since 2006.

The camera was one of several purchases made by the Police Department with approximately $100,000 in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Transportation Security Administration. Other newly acquired high-tech equipment includes a canine GPS tracking system to follow the trail of dogs tracking a scent; a dog collar that emits light; and two custom-built mobile kennel trucks equipped with air-conditioning and food so the dogs can rest, eat a meal if the unit is deployed overtime, or cool down from summer heat. The trucks, which were designed by Officer Geraci, can store enough food to feed the dogs for up to a month, so they can be transported to disaster scenes in other regions if needed.

“We’re all sheepdogs looking for wolves, and my job is to keep my flock safe,” Lieutenant Pappas said.

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