Norwich K9 Officer receives advanced certification; Evening Sun Staff Writer experiences K9 first-hand

ENDICOTT – Norwich City Police Officer Thomas Miller and his K9 Nitro received an advanced certification this week from the Southern Tier Canine Association. This came during a seminar put on all this week by the association.

K9 Officers from three countries and four different states all gathered in Endicott this week for the Southern Tier Canine Association in Endicott. Norwich K9 Officer Thomas Miller was in attendance and received special certification from the association. His K9 Nitro passed the Police Narcotics Detection 1, or PND1, certification, receiving her advanced certification.

“Nitro is also a New York State certified K9 as well,” said Officer Miller. “She has a lot of advanced training and is very highly certified.” At the seminar these K9’s are being trained all day long to hone their skills in almost every aspect or scenario that they could come across while in the field. The instructers offer training in anything from patrol, or bite, training and narcotics detection to explosives detection and obedience skills.

“We try to train the dogs in as many different scenarios as we can,” said instructer Robby Hermans. “It is important to expose them to different environments and new situations to make the dogs as strong as we can.”

Hermans, a who owns and trains K9s in Europe and Florida, went on to say that this is important because if the K9 is not as good as it can be, it endangers both the K9 and the officer.

During the week the K9s and their handlers are subjected to a wide variety of different locations, smells, and situations to ensure that the dog is in top form. “We want to train these dogs right,” continued Hermans. “If we take the time to do it right, we can stamp out the bad habits that the dog might have and make them more effective.”

Throughout the day Miller and the other officers were subjected to as many different training exercises as they wanted. “They have a ton of different things that we can do here running from dawn until dusk,” said Officer Miller. “Nitro and I have been focusing on narcotics detection all week.”

Miller went on to say that because narcotics have been such a prevalent issue in Norwich and around the county they want to make it their first priority to do their part to help stamp it out.

Officer Miller and the other K9 handlers demonstrated just what kind of training that the dogs actually go through. First up was a bite exercise. An instructor hid in a room while a handler sent his K9 to search and apprehend the “bad guy.” All of the K9s showed impressive skill and obedience to their handlers. It was then time for Officer Miller and K9 Nitro to do a narcotics search. As an instructor hid scented towels; Miller explained that he would release his K9 into a room and instruct her to do a search. After Nitro found the narcotics she would indicate to Officer Miller where the drugs were hidden in the room. Officer Miller would then give Nitro a toy to play with as her reward.

“If we don’t end on a positive note for the dog, they will think that they did something wrong,” explained Officer Miller. “We want the dog to think that they won the game and keep their spirits high.”

After the demonstrations, I had the opportunity to put on the bite suit and see first-hand what it was like to be bitten by a highly trained dog. As I put on the jacket and the K9 was taken out of his kennel, I could tell that I would be in for a wild ride. Luckily for me the handler was nice enough to have the dog not take off from a full sprint and tackle me, opting for a slow walk up. After the dog finally let go and was put back in his kennel, I could fully appreciate just how in control of me the hundred pound animal was. Not being able to feel much of the dog’s teeth but more of an intense pressure on my arm, I could understand just how effective these dogs can be.

Officer Miller has been at the Norwich Police Department since 2008 and K9 Nitro has been certified as a Police Canine since 2010 but was hired full time in March of 2014. Today Officer Miller and K9 Nitro test for their PND 2 certification. If Nitro passes, she will have the highest certification that the Southern Tier Canine Association offers.

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