Transit Police K9

Our K 9 Service Veterans


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NYPD Transit Bureau K9, Nigel, eagerly awaits patrol duty

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PO Danielle Bonnano lets me into the Transit K9 unit

DSC_1939 copy.jpgWhen the sign says, POLICE DOGS DO NOT ENTER, well, you just don’t enter without an escort. That’s just your basic survival mechanism talking. So I called inside by phone. P O Danielle Bonanno had already spotted me on the CCTV at the door anyway and came out to let in the 26-year-Transit-Police veteran in.

I was at the NYPD Transit Bureau’s K9 base on Northern Blvd. Queens, NY. The base is the headquarters of about 40 dog and cop teams. It is Supervised its C.O., Lt. John Pappas.

The New York City Transit Police was at one time a separate force, merging with NYPD in 1995,  called the “Hostile takeover” by those veteran Transit cops. That force also had its K9 unit beginning in the 80s. There is a strong recognition of that Transit tradition that is present in this current Transit K9 unit. There is a long board of photos and articles relating to that department that exemplifies that recognition.

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This NYC Transit Police banner is displayed at all Transit Police funerals in recognition of that department’s service. From left, Lt. John Papas, Sgt. Christopher Jazsek


Patch IMG_4047.jpgThe Transit Bureau K9 unit as well as the Transit Anti Terrorist unit have Transit Police on their patches.

Lt. Pappas, recognizes the accomplishments of the former Transit Police and welcomes any retirees from that department to visit any time they wish.

All police work is important and all demands certain skills, but working with dogs is a very special talent. It’s teaming up with a partner you will take home with you every day. Now, I’ve had some good partners in my 26 year career but never one I’d like to take home, live with, then come back with every day.

Not many civilians spend that much time with their dogs. As a result an unusually strong bond is established between partners. In law there are terms, malum en se and malum prohibitum, the first meaning bad in its self, (inherently wrong by nature) the second, prohibited by law. Well I don’t know if there is a clearer example of malum in se than attacking a police dog team. Attack a police dog or hurt a cop with his dog present, that’s just madness or malum in se to the max and might result in your being torn a new sun-don’t-shine portal.

Police Officers assigned to the unit must undergo about six months training with a dog for patrol use. An additional 40 hours per quarter of in-service training is required as well to keep the teams in A-1 condition.

The team works under special circumstances, crowds, noise of trains, loudspeakers and sometimes in some of the most odious of smells. Officers and dogs must learn to work effectively under these conditions. Until now only Police Officers were partnered with a dog but now Sergeants too will handle them. One Sergeant leading the way is K9 trainer, Sgt. Randy Brenner and his dog Mahoney. All new dogs are named after fallen officers and Mahoney was named after Police Officer Sean Mahoney.

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Sgt. Randy Brenner, pictured with Mahoney, trains K 9 unit dogs. Mahoney is named after fallen Police Officer, Sean Mahoney.


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Sgt. Marc Richardson

I spoke at Length with Sgt. Marc Richardson who told me the dogs are mostly German Shepherd or German Shepherd mix. There are Belgian Shepherds, Malinois, (Short-haired Belgian Shepherds) and even two Labs. “German Shepherds are used in police work because of tradition, they are known to most people as police dogs, but also because they have the stamina, intelligence, strength, and spirit that is needed.” Sgt. Richardson said.

In the course of a work day the teams are together many hours. Then, many more hours at home. Officers become very protective of their dogs. Some officers develop their own quirks, like not wanting their dog to mingle with the other dogs and keep them separate when they arrive for work. All dogs, civilian and police, become ill at times and there is an outdoor cage to accommodate a sick pooch until he his well, the better to hose down and sanitize the area. Outdoor cages are also provided for dogs kept outside at home.

The K9 Unit is basically a support service, assisting other officers. At large crowds they are present but kept in the periphery and are not used at all in crowd control. Sometimes if there is threat to attack and vandalize a police facility a dog team will be placed outside. There are then no vandalism attempts. Dogs will also check out luggage, backpacks, etc. for possible bomb threats. They can detect bomb material vapors as well.

Sometimes when there is a condition of a rash of larcenies or robberies at a station, a dog team will be posted. The condition, “drys right up,” said Sgt. Richardson. Crime usually, for obvious reasons, doesn’t occur when a dog is present. However there is always someone who didn’t get the memo. A bag snatch went down recently on a subway platform where a dog was present, the dog pursued the perp and an arrest was made. Malum en se? Perhaps another career choice is in order.

One team is notable in that the dog, Cezar, is an Army veteran who was the first military veteran dog to join the Transit K9 Unit.


NYPD Transit Bureau K9,Cezar served three tours in Afghanistan. He works with PO Juan Rodriguez who served two tours. They continue to serve.

I spoke with PO Juan Rodriguez, Cezar’s partner:

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K9 Officer Juan Rodriguez, Photo ABC news

Rodriguez said Cezar served 3 tours in Afghanistan while he served two. Cezar did a great job there having 13 finds to his credit, Rodriguez said. That means he discovered 13 IEDs, Improvised Explosive Devices, or planted bombs, that if not detected could have killed or maimed an untold amount of American troops.

Cezar joined the Transit Bureau K9 unit in 2014. He just turned 6 in Oct. Juan spends ten travel-and-work hours a day, traveling from Putnam, NY with Cezar, then many more hours at home. Officer Rodriguez has one son, Hunter, who will be 4 this month. Hunter loves Cezar. When the dog lays down, Hunter often lays down right on top of him. They all go to the soccer field often to toss a ball around.

Juan has 17 years on the job, two with K9, and can retire early due to military time. But he loves his job and intends to stay at least ten more years. I think what we have here is someone who really loves his career. He’s obviously service oriented, serving America, (only one percent of us serve), and now NYC.

Too many times we Americans don’t see our uniformed forces on our corners as defenders against those who would harm us. Too many times, for the acts of a few, have so many who serve been placed in bad light.  In these most challenging and scrutinized police times, only those most dedicated to public service need apply. Yet they stand up, they sign up, they serve.

As for Cezar. We know what service he’s contributed on foreign soil. But we’ll never know how many troops came home to America alive and well because of him. How many are able to fully function, able to enjoy careers and families, like PO Juan Rodriguez, because of him. How many are able to run with their kids and pooches on soccer fields. And we’ll never know how much crime or injury Cezar prevented or will prevent in the subway due to his malum-in-se deterrence.

Be well,
Lee Winters, shedding light wherethesundontshine.


See also, my sunny-side blog:

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