Long Island corrections officers and sheriff’s deputies gathered with Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. in Riverhead Thursday morning to honor the department’s fallen K-9s and celebrate those who continue to serve each day.
The sheriff introduced the ceremony as a way to honor and pay tribute to local law enforcement’s K-9 family with a monument dedicated to their service. K-9s, officers and deputies from both the Nassau and Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and the DEC were in attendance.
Mr. Toulon said K-9 units have been instrumental in hundreds of Suffolk County police cases, lending assistance to other law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Marshals, as well as neighboring towns and villages. From recovery of illegal narcotics and proceeds to assistance in contraband seizures and arrests, the departments furry friends are always there, Mr. Toulon said. Currently, the department has six active K-9s, three in corrections and three in the deputy sheriff’s department.
“Over the years, our K-9 units have found missing persons, wanted felons and have recovered evidence in cases of assault, robbery and burglaries,” Mr. Toulon said.
At the Thursday morning ceremony at the Sheriff’s Office on Center Drive, the following K-9s were memorialized: Tobey, Smokey, Hans, Arras, Kalle, Roy, Bronco, Raider, Robby, Dewey, Patch and Lady. Their names were read by Undersheriff Steven Kuehhas.
The granite monument, unveiled at the finale of the ceremony, is of the original material that made up the old Riverhead jail torn down roughly 80 years ago.
“The granite had been thrown in the woods … and recovered about 15 years ago,” Mr. Toulon said. “This is the same stone that was used to create the monument in the front of the building dedicated to the county sheriffs and corrections officers who died in service.”
Mr. Toulon and Alan Croce, former NYS Commission of Correction chair, unveiled the monument.
K-9 officers John Doscinski and John Morris of the Riverhead Police Department attended the ceremony. Last year the department lost K-9 Rocky in the line of duty following an early morning crash when Mr. Morris was responding to a police pursuit after a driver fled a DWI checkpoint. More than 40 K-9 officers and their dogs attended a funeral procession for Rocky last September at Veterans Memorial Park. Riverhead’s newest K-9 is Odinn, a German shepherd that hails from Holland, and the other is Titan, also a German shepherd.
Mr. Toulon said after the event the monument was built by members of the county’s inmate program and corrections staff at no cost. On the monument lies a plaque that reads: “Dedicated to the Canines of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office … Their Loyalty, Courage and Sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
“In the mid-’70s,” Mr. Croce said, “when you could not even bring a dog into a corrections facility, we trained one dog at Yaphank … and that dog was professional. He came into the facilities and we got all sorts of contraband.”
Mr. Croce said he sees today the progress made in the past 50 years.
“This sheriff is doing an exceptional job and I give my congratulations to him,” he said of Mr. Toulon.
At the end of his speech, officers posed for pictures near the monument with their K-9s and Mr. Toulon read aloud a poem in honor of the fallen:
“I will lay down my life for you and expect nothing but love in return,” he read. “I protect my officer with my life, and would gladly take a bullet in his place. I am sent in to find lost children and fugitives on the run. I find drugs and weapons and even bombs. I am the first sent in and sometimes the last to leave. I am the nose and ears of my officer. I will protect and serve him. I would die for him and for you. I only ask for compassion and a kind word.”
Top photo caption: Riverhead K-9 officers John Doscinski, left, and John Morris in front of the memorial with Sheriff Errol Toulon. (Credit: Mahreen Khan)