By Dave Rogers
---- — SALISBURY — All the way from the Czech Republic, the police department’s newest officer hit the streets earlier this week — all 76 pounds and four legs of him.
A purebred German shepherd, Herc’s first day on the force was Monday; and since then, he has been riding across town with his partner, K-9 officer Richard Dellaria.
The two make up the department’s newly reinstated K-9 team, which was made possible thanks to a $25,000 grant from a private state organization to acquire the dog and pay for Dellaria’s training. The department had been without a K-9 unit for about 10 years after the original dog, Alba, retired in 2004.
On Jan. 3, Dellaria, who joined the department in December 2011, graduated from the Boston Police K-9 Academy, successfully completing the rigorous 14-week course that saw him and Herc, short for Hercules, travel across the state for numerous exercises. During his academy training, Herc achieved eight certifications: obedience and control, agility, tracking, recalling, apprehension, building searches, area searches and officer protection. Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler said eventually Herc’s duties will include drug detection.
When Dellaria was introduced as the town’s new K-9 officer in July 2013, he said that the chance to make a serious dent in drug-related crime, a scourge that he called one of the town’s biggest challenges, was one of the main reasons he pursued the opportunity.
Back home now, Herc lives with Dellaria around the clock. Dellaria said Herc prefers to spend most of his time outdoors and has his own private house within a dog yard. His house is insulated, but when it gets below 20 degrees, Herc is brought inside. Still growing, the 18-month-old Herc will soon become heavier, Dellaria added.
Dellaria said he is enjoying his time with Herc while off-duty and has a luxury not many people can say they have.
“I get to go to work with a dog. How awesome is that?” Dellaria said.
Also new for Dellaria is his uniform. Looking more para-military, the uniform features an exterior bulletproof vest and extra compartments and straps up front for items he would normally wear behind his back around his belt. The uniform is less cumbersome than a patrol officer uniform and the absence of items on his back allows for greater safety and mobility.
The next six weeks will see Herc become acclimated to the other officers in the department, the police station and the patrol area town in general. At the moment, Herc is still very protective of his territory and doesn’t get along with other dogs. When in Dellaria’s specially outfitted cruiser, Herc makes no qualms about who actually owns it.
“He thinks the car is his,” Dellaria said, adding Herc will bark loudly when people come close to the cruiser.
Despite the weeks it will take Herc to become 100 percent comfortable with his fellow officers and the town in general, Dellaria said his partner is ready to serve the citizens of Salisbury.
“He’s as sharp as he can be,” Dellaria said.
While Dellaria and Herc will typically work a 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift, the unit will be available to the 10 communities that belong to a mutual aid pact.
For years, the town called upon the services of Amesbury K-9 officer Thomas Nichols and his partner, Kaybar. The Amesbury K-9 unit was one of the few in the Greater Newburyport area until Monday.
Fowler stressed that Herc would soon become a part of the community and will be featured in public relations-themed events including visits to schools and with the elderly.