New dog on the beat in borough

Naugatuck police Officer Jake Pinho is pictured with Judge, a 2-year-old black Labrador who will be trained to track people and detect narcotics, at the Naugatuck Police Department. -CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Police Department’s newest recruit will soon have a nose for sniffing out drugs and tracking missing people.

Judge, a 2-year-old black Labrador, has joined the ranks of the force. Judge and his handler, Officer Jake Pinho, will begin the Connecticut State Police K-9 academy in January, where Judge will be trained in tracking and narcotics detection, Deputy Chief C. Colin McAllister said.

Judge fills a void at the department. The department’s former drug-detecting K-9, Pete, retired in 2013 after five years on the force. Over the last six years, Naugatuck police relied on state police and surrounding police agencies when they needed a drug-detecting K-9.

The department also has patrol K-9 Vane, who has been in service for about eight years. Vane is trained in apprehending and tracking criminal suspects, McAllister said.

Training Labradors in detection and tracking is a new program offered by state police, McAllister said. Previously, he said, Labradors were only trained to detect drugs, explosives, and accelerants used in a fire.

McAllister said Judge is expected to complete the first part of training — detection — and be in service by the end of January. Judge will then be trained in tracking in the spring, he said. He said Judge will not be used to track criminal suspects, only missing people.

The department paid for Judge, who cost $3,000, through assets seized and forfeited in drug-related arrests, McAllister said. He said there is no cost for the training, but the department may incur some personnel-related costs to cover for Pinho when he is at the academy with Judge.

Having a dedicated narcotics-detecting K-9 again adds another component to the department’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, McAllister said.

“This is all part of our larger plan for opioid education, enforcement and prevention,” he said.