On Tuesday, July 26, the Suffolk County Police Department held a ceremony to honor the police canines and their handlers who had recently successfully completed canine training class and achieved New York State certification.
Canine section commanding officer James Curley said at the ceremony that the 16-week initial canine training class is the second-longest training offered by the police department, second to only the police academy.
“In the police academy, you are only responsible for your own performance,” Curley said. “In canine training, you and your dog are learning together and you don’t speak the same language.”
Curley noted that in the past, when a handler successfully completed the training class, “we would pat them on the back and tell them to go out and catch bad guys.”
“That’s still the desired result we have, but having gone through these training classes and observing the physical and mental effort put forth by each handler, we felt it important to begin formally recognizing these efforts,” Curley said.
Tuesday’s ceremony was also significant because of the name of police officer Brian Lawrence’s canine partner. Officer Lawrence named his canine partner Rafeh in honor of Fifth Precinct police officer Fadi Rafeh, who died unexpectedly in 2019 at 38 years old. Officer Rafeh and Officer Lawrence were fast friends who went through training camp together and worked in the Fifth Precinct.
“I know this was an easy choice for Brian, but one he doesn’t take lightly knowing that canine Rafeh has to live up to all police officer Fadi Rafeh stood for and accomplished in his life,” Curley said of the decision to name the canine Rafeh. “I am confident he will make the Rafeh family proud.”
During their first week as a certified team, Lawrence and Rafeh tracked down and successfully apprehended a suspect that had fled on foot from highway patrol officers.
To honor their accomplishment, Lawrence and canine Rafeh were given citations from assemblyman Jarett Gandolfo and congressman Andrew Garbarino, as well as a flag that flew above the U.S. Capitol. The GOOD Foundation also gifted the pair treats and toys for canine Rafeh.
Although not at the ceremony, canine Doc and police officer Jennifer Moody also graduated to patrol duties. Officer Moody named Doc after her brother, Glenn, who died in 2020. Glenn was affectionately known as “Doc” due to his service as a Navy corpsman in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2011. Moody is the third female handler in the Canine Section’s history.