clubhouse, east hampton, indoor, tennis, cornhole, bar, happy hour, bowling, mini golf

Story - News

Oct 2, 2018 12:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Police Department Revives K-9 Unit After Nearly A Decade Gap

Southampton Village Police Officer James Moore with Topper, the department's new K9 dog. CAILIN RILEY
Oct 2, 2018 12:23 PM

It’s been nearly a decade since the Southampton Village Police Department had a K-9 unit. So when Chief Thomas Cummings sent an email around to patrol officers in May, asking who would be interested in taking on the task, nine of them responded right away. Officer James Moore emerged as the lucky winner, and for the past three weeks, he’s been in training at the Suffolk County Police Department’s training facility in Yaphank with Topper, a 14-month-old male German shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix bred in the Czech Republic.

Officer Moore, 35, has been with the department more than 12 years, and he did not hesitate to respond to that email.

“I jumped on it,” he said. “It’s just a once-in-a-lifetime gig with the police department. And I love animals.”

Chief Cummings said Officer Moore, a Southampton High School graduate, was an easy choice.

“He’s our senior officer on patrol, and he’s a good officer,” the chief said, pointing out that Officer Moore was the department’s officer of the year last year. “He’s physically fit, lives close by, and he’s done well in his career, so it seemed like a good fit.”

Officer Moore and Topper are still in the early stages of a 16-week training program. They go to Yaphank Monday through Friday each week, joining a group of five other K9 units, including an officer from Riverhead and four other Suffolk County Police officers and dogs. The dogs and officers in the program are paired together after being evaluated for four days by the county trainers, who watch the officers interact with all the dogs and then make their decisions. Officer Moore admitted that, initially, Topper was not his first choice.

“He was the only [dog] who was barking when they were all in the kennels, and I thought, ‘I don’t want to get the barker,’” Officer Moore said.

Eventually, Topper won him over. Officer Moore said the moment that did it for him was watching Topper easily hop into the patrol car without any issues, while other dogs were hesitant at first.

“It was like he fit there,” he said.

There is a bit of irony in the fact that Officer Moore has ended up working alongside a police dog. When he was just five weeks old, he was mauled by his family’s dog, which left a long scar—that is still there, although obscured by his hair—on his head. He doesn’t remember the experience, but the result was that he did not grow up with a dog, although he said he always liked them.

Decades later, he has one, although the relationship between a police officer and a working police dog is, by necessity, much different than that of a typical pet-owner relationship. Topper lives with Officer Moore, but will rarely come inside his home. He lives outside in a kennel with an insulated dog house, and would only be brought indoors in the case of extreme weather. Police dogs cannot be treated like pets for obvious reasons, but they also should not have any limitations placed on them—for instance, being taught they cannot jump on a bed or couch or table—because they may need to perform that task in their line of duty and should not feel hesitant to do so.

Officer Moore and Topper are currently working on tracking and apprehension work. When the 16-week training is over, Topper and Officer Moore will be an officially “patrol certified” K-9 unit, and then they will have some time off before returning to train in what will be Topper’s specialty: narcotics.

The department had a consistent K-9 unit from the mid-1980s until about eight years ago, when a dog named Spirit, which was handled by Sergeant Mike Medio, died. In the years since then, the Southampton Village Board did not allocate funds for a police dog, but Chief Cummings said that Southampton Village Mayor Michael Irving was in favor of the program when the department brought it up again about a year ago.

The reason for wanting to start the K-9 program again was simple, Chief Cummings said. “We’re very much oriented toward providing the highest level of service we can, and a K-9 dog is a tool that will help us do a better job,” he said.

While Topper will specialize in narcotics, he will be useful to the department in a variety of ways, Chief Cummings explained, from helping track and apprehend a person who flees during a traffic stop to searching for crime suspects in more efficient and safer ways.

“We’ve done searches in houses for suspects who might be in a closet hiding under a pile of clothes, and it’s dangerous for a regular officer to dig his hand into the closet,” he explained. “The dog will know if someone is there and will alert the officer so we can use better tactics.”

The department will still have to wait a few more weeks for Topper and Officer Moore to graduate from training. For now, when they’re not at the training facility, they can be spotted on walks around the village and at other village events and functions, which will allow Topper to become acclimated to his surroundings.

You've read 1 of 7 free articles this month.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

Congratulations Topper and Officer Moore..for continued training and soon to be keeping us safe,,,,thanks...
By native68 (20), southampton on Oct 3, 18 9:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
Well done by the mayor, a K9 is important to the SHVPD. Great officer to choose for the job....
By knitter (1720), Southampton on Oct 3, 18 10:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
It's about time. These dogs are amazing & every police department should have one. Welcome to Southampton K9 Officer Topper!
By NoName27 (16), Southampton on Oct 3, 18 10:51 AM
You can't go wrong with a Belgian Malinois! Go Topper!
By Po Boy (4255), Water Mill on Oct 3, 18 12:52 PM
well done
By xtiego (696), bridgehampton on Oct 3, 18 4:35 PM
Most certainly glad to see the K-9 Program reinstated. A K-9 Unit is a valuable
resource for any law enforcement agency. It should have never been
discontinued in the first place.
By Jimion (124), Hampton Bays on Oct 3, 18 7:55 PM
lmao the village is a crime haven all we need now is a chopper lol.
By chief1 (2720), southampton on Oct 3, 18 9:06 PM
More dogs! Less cops lol
By deepchanel (79), Hampton Bays on Oct 4, 18 1:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
If you need some advice, fair dinkum a gent on Blank Lane has your back...
By Mr. Z (11367), North Sea on Oct 3, 18 11:20 PM
By Preliator Lives (398), Obamavillie on Oct 4, 18 8:14 AM
My what sharp teeth you have grandma.
By SlimeAlive (1180), Southampton on Oct 4, 18 1:30 PM