The condolences began to pour in almost immediately after news broke that Rocky, an 8-year-old German shepherd with the Riverhead Police Department, was killed early Sunday morning in the line of duty. On social media, posts of remembrance came in from the NYPD, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, the National Fallen Officer Foundation, the Suffolk County PBA and so many more.
Donations from community members even began trickling in unsolicited to both the police department and Riverhead Town to assist in covering the costs for a replacement dog.
Rocky spent nearly seven years on the force working with his handler, Officer John Morris, and assisted in countless cases over that time. Rocky’s untimely death, after being ejected from a police vehicle that crashed while responding to a report of a driver fleeing a DWI checkpoint, touched a nerve with so many.
K-9s play an invaluable role for law enforcement.
“Despite decades of trying, researchers have yet to develop a machine as exquisitely sensitive and discerning as a dog’s nose,” a 2017 New York Times story noted. “Nor can a robot rove with the agility and ease of a dog.”
Just to reach the point of becoming a certified patrol K-9 is a great accomplishment in itself, one that few dogs ultimately reach. Most police dogs in the United States hail from Eastern European countries. Rocky was born in Poland.
Want to help?
Donations in memory of Rocky can be sent to assist with K-9 related expenses such as acquisition, training, maintenance, equipment and veterinarian expenses. All donations will benefit the department’s K-9 unit. Checks can be sent payable to “Riverhead Town Police Department — K9” and addressed to “Office of the Police Chief (K9)” at 210 Howell Avenue, Riverhead, N.Y. 11901.
The dogs are trained at the Suffolk County Police Department training center in Yaphank and the dogs that are best equipped to become full-time officers then spend between 16 and 20 weeks training specifically with their handler.
“It gives you a seventh sense when you’re out there,” Riverhead K-9 officer John Doscinski said in 2015. “The dog can show you where a person came from, where they went and what they left behind.”
They are truly remarkable animals that can help shield human officers from danger. But as Sunday’s tragedy reinforced, the danger is always there when officers with their K-9s race to a scene in the dead of night.
Riverhead Town and its residents will always be grateful for the service Rocky provided.
Photo caption: Rocky pictured at a 2011 Town Board meeting when he first joined the department. (Credit: Tim Gannon)