Storm warning: New K9 team hits the streets

The top dog/human K-9 team in the state is now patrolling Trumbull.

Officer Greg Lee and his partner, Storm, graduated at the top of their class from the Connecticut State Police training program. The class included teams from 16 law enforcement agencies. Lee and Storm received the Top Academic Excellence Award, having attained an overall score of 98% during training.

“Our first police dog program was a great success, much more so than expected,” said Deputy Chief Glenn Byrnes of Officer R.J. Carlson and partner Cyrus, who began working together in 2011. “Cyrus has located people and evidence and tracked suspects here and in our neighboring towns.”

Lee is a 12-year veteran of the Trumbull police and is also a member of the regional Emergency Response Team. He selected Storm, a 20-month-old German shepherd, before beginning training last year. Byrnes said officers select their partners based on temperament and suitability for police work.

“Sometimes people think we pick dogs based on their size and aggression, but that’s not the case,” he said. “The ability to bond with the handler is key. Lots of times dogs don’t work out because they’re too aggressive. The dog needs to have selective aggression when the situation calls for it, but be calm when it doesn’t.”

The Connecticut State Police Canine Training program consists of both physical training aspects and academic proficiency. The 14-week course takes place at various locations across the state.

The physical component includes obedience, tracking, building searches, evidence recovery and suspect apprehension. The handler’s competence is also tested through a battery of written tests that cover a variety of topics, including the history of the use of police dogs, anatomy and first aid for dogs, the behavior and learning ability of dogs and the principles of training police dogs.

All police canine teams participate in monthly retraining exercises at the State Police training facility and must maintain annual certification through the New England State Police Administrators Conference by demonstrating their ability to meet organization standards.

Lee and Storm are currently working the day shift, but part of the responsibility of a K-9 officer is being on call around the clock when needed in town or as a mutual aid response to other towns.

Both Cyrus and Storm are trained for patrol duty, which includes crowd control and area searches, but training is ongoing and the dogs may receive additional training in such tasks as drug-sniffing.