NARRAGANSETT – This week, the Narragansett Police Department (NPD) welcomed the newest member of the force, K-9 Napoleon, or Nappy, as he has already been nicknamed. The 22-month-old Dutch Shepherd will be specifically trained in explosives detection, and was made possible through a $25,000 grant from The Stanton Foundation.
“K-9 Napoleon and his handler, Patrolman Paul Bassett, are currently attending the Rhode Island K-9 Academy for the patrol portion of the training,” said NPD Captain Matthew Sutton. “Once completed, they will train for explosives detection. The duration of both trainings combined last approximately three months. Once graduated and certified, K-9 Napoleon and his handler will join Patrolman Manuel Sifontes and K-9 in our K-9 unit. The academy is owned and operated by retired Rhode Island State Police Sgt. Roger Reardon, a K-9 master trainer.”
The Narragansett Town Council unanimously approved the new K-9 after NPD was awarded a $25,000 grant from The Stanton Foundation, which will cover all costs associated with procuring and training a new police dog, including purchase of the new canine, the canine handler course, converting a police cruiser for canine use, an outdoor kennel, equipment, a bulletproof vest for the canine, dog food and vet care for three years and reserves for future canine training and contingency costs.
NPD began its K-9 program in 2001, and its current police dog, K-9 unit Astor, is trained in both drug detection and patrol. K-9 Astor currently forms a team in NPD’s K-9 unit with handler Sifontes. A second K-9 and handler were required, however, due to the intricacies in how police dogs are trained to detect certain suspect substances through scent.
“The main reason narcotics K-9s cannot be trained for explosives is for safety,” said Sifontes. “If they are trained for both and the handler thinks the K-9 is alerting on narcotics and it is actually an explosive, that’s a problem. In addition, there are over 30 different odors associated with explosives making it impossible for the K-9 to be able to be trained in both capacities.”
According to the police department, the team of Astor and the new K-9 unit, specifically the combination of each dog’s individual skillset, would be able to provide services in the event of a missing person, to track a suspect and detect narcotics and explosives. With Narragansett featuring many popular public destinations and events during the summertime, most being large, open spaces, such as its public beaches, a K-9 with the ability to detect threats would be invaluable to NPD.
“Our new K-9 will be certified for explosives detection,” said NPD Chief Sean Corrigan at the time of Nappy’s approval by the town council. “This will be a substantial benefit to the police department that must provide security for many of what the Department of Homeland Security calls ‘soft targets and crowded places.’ Examples include three state beaches, a very popular town beach and the port of Galilee. In addition, Narragansett hosts several large gatherings every summer…the addition of an explosives detection certified K-9 unit would allow us to have readily available a K-9 unit to sweep these locations and to respond to reports of suspicious packages. Plus, the very presence of the K-9 is a deterrent to criminal behavior.”
Nappy, like many police dogs, was imported to its new home from France.
“Most police K-9s are imported from Europe due to a long history and reputation of these dogs having the best genetic makeup and temperament suitable for police work,” said Sifontes. “Being working dogs is in their genes from many years of breeding and training overseas. Our K-9s have both been imported from Europe through the Rhode Island K9 Academy who have long had a working relationship with breeders overseas. Once we receive our K-9s, they are paired with our selected handler for a short bonding period prior to attending the academy.”
After training is complete, K-9 Nappy will also be able detect and locate firearms and ammunition, all of which contain smokeless and Pyrodex powder.
NPD’s K-9 units are also a strong focal point of the department’s community outreach. When the town council approved the $25,000 grant for Nappy, Corrigan stated NPD currently receives more requests for live K-9 demonstrations at community events than the department is currently able to satisfy. K-9 Astor is currently on Instagram (k9astornpd) and NPD’s Facebook posts featuring the dog are “easily the department’s most popular,” according to Corrigan.
This summer, while assisting police in Charlestown, K-9 Astor and Sifontes successfully tracked a homicide suspect wanted out of North Attleboro.
“We are very excited about this new capability,” said Sutton in regard to explosives detection.
K-9 Napoleon will also be made available via mutual aid to other law enforcement agencies in the region.