K-9 teams sniff out explosives during an organized testing program in Melrose

K-9 police teams from across New England recently gathered at a closed school in Melrose to test the dogs’ ability to detect explosives – a specialized canine skill that helps law enforcement with investigations and security efforts.

Greeted by the Melrose Police Department, handlers and their dogs completed the National Smell Recognition Testing and Certification Program, conducted over three days by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms fire and explosives.

“These dogs will prevent crime,” said ATF Supervisory Special Agent Matthew O’Shaughnessy. “They do explosive sweeps, so if there’s an actual device out there, those dogs will find them before they harm any of our citizens.”

The test assesses each K-9 team’s ability to detect 10 fundamental explosive scents. The program took place March 29-31 at Beebe Elementary School, which is currently not in use.

German Shepherd Kemba wants to play with his owner, Brookline Police K-9 Officer Will Walker, because they’re next in line for testing.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Among the teams were Melrose K-9 Officer Sean Morris and his K-9 Giselle, a 2-year-old Yellow Lab, who graduated together from the 16-week Explosives Detection K-9 School of the ATF in September 2021.

“She’s able to locate anything from a simple shell casing to a 50-pound bomb or more,” said Morris of Giselle, who passed the recent certification test.

The test consists of 15 cans in a large circle in a designated test room. Some boxes contain explosives, which every dog ​​should be able to identify, and others contain distracting odors. ATF National Canine Division trainers are on hand to help handlers navigate the area and to help train dogs if they have any problems with the test.

Frank Femino and his dog Tyson, a Belgian Malinois, have been with the Boston Police Department’s K-9 Explosives Detection Unit for five years.

Femino directed his partner to each of the 15 cans and Tyson sniffed each one, sitting down when he detected explosives. As a reward for passing the test, he received a ball to play with.

“They work for this one thing which is this toy reward,” Femino said. “That’s all they want.”

Maine State K-9 Trooper Chris Crawford trains with his chocolate lab Ruckus. Dogs must detect 10 fundamental explosive odors to pass the test. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Maine State Police K-9 Trooper Chris Crawford waits for the test with his dog, Ruckus (left), along with fellow Maine State Trooper Reid Bond and his dog, Rocco. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Rose Pecci can be contacted at [email protected]

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