May 24, 2016
Staff Report – The Gardner News
May 24, 2016
WEST BOYLSTON An innovative program at the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, training shelter dogs to become police dogs, is getting recognition from Petco.
“It’s saving the lives of shelter animals and giving them the opportunity to serve the community,” said Lee Domaszowec, the program manager with the Petco Foundation.
“It should be the model for all law enforcement agencies across the country.”
On Friday, May 20, Domaszowec presented Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis with a check for $30,000 to pay for a new kennel at the Worcester County House of Correction for the K-9 unit that serves the jail.
The money comes from the Helping Heroes grant.
Three of the four dogs in the unit are shelter dogs who have been trained to work in law enforcement.
Using shelter dogs for work in jail partly came about out of necessity, Evangelidis said. When he was first elected sheriff, the department was facing a crisis with the K-9 unit.
The dogs in the unit, mostly specially bred and trained German shepherds, were all getting set to retire.
To keep the K-9 unit going would have meant paying to buy new dogs, an expense that was just outside the budget.
Evangelidis felt it important that the jail have a K-9 unit.
Dogs serve a valuable purpose in jails, finding drugs smuggled into the jail before those drugs can wreck havoc among the prisoners.
“We have 1,200 inmates on any given day,” he said.
“I thought it was unacceptable not to have dogs available 24/7.”
Evangelidis and his team in the sheriff’s office worked hard to come up with a solution.
That solution turned out to be Nikita.
A small Labrador-mixed dog, Nikita is not a prototypical police K-9.
“When you think ‘police dog,’ you wait to see the German shepherd,” Evangelidis said.
The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office adopted Nikita from the Sterling Animal Shelter free of charge, and then had him go through specialized training offered by the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office.
Evangelidis said Nikita is now one of the most sophisticated drug-sniffing dogs working in law enforcement.
To prove himself, Nikita was able to find drugs being smuggled into the jail on his first day.
A prisoner was having Suboxone sent to him through the mail in a way most people would not detect.
The drug was crushed and the powder put in the glue closing the envelope, Evangelidis said.
People can’t smell drugs like Suboxone, but Nikita can.
The program has grown to include Jaxx, another small Labrador mix from the Sterling Shelter, and now Duke.
Duke, also a Labrador mix, was donated to the department by a family who could not keep him.
Duke is a bit bigger than Jaxx and Nikita, and just as ready to get to work.
Worcester County Sheriff Deputy Lt. Tom Chabot, the handler for Nikita and Duke, said that these dogs are in some ways better police dogs than German shepherds or other traditional K-9 officers.
“They seem to want to please you more,” he said.
Nikita, Duke and Jaxx are also different in that they are able to be pets as well as police dogs, Chabot said.
His other German shepherd police dogs could never be considered pets, as the working dogs were more like highly-tuned law enforcement tools.
Nikita and Duke are able to be family dogs when they go home, Chabot said.
“They’re more (like) family guys, but when it’s time for work they are 100 percent,” Chabot said.
The department also has a bloodhound, Maya, on the K-9 roster.
Evangelidis wanted to make sure they had a good tracking dog available to find escaped prisoners, and also help area police departments look for missing people.
Domaszowec said the use of shelter dogs is something almost no other law enforcement agency is doing right now.
When Petco Foundation executives found out about the program, they approached Evangelidis about the grant.
Going with the shelter dogs as K-9s gives the dogs a new lease on life, and it shows the community the value even little shelter dogs like Nikita can have.
“No one across the country does it better than the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office,” Domaszowec said.
The $30,000 Helping Heroes Grant award will help provide a year’s worth of dog food, veterinary fees, supplies such as dog beds and water bowls, national bloodhound training, narcotic training aids for the detection dogs, and a new 2,200-square-foot climate-controlled kennel and exercise pen.
The kennel is under construction with help from Worcester County Sheriff’s Office staff.
Officer Steve Salvadoros is leading the construction, with help from inmate work crews.
Former officer Marek Rudnicki is donating his labor to build the roof for the kenne
May 23, 2016
May 23, 2016
Blackstone Valley Tribune
April 1, 2016
May 23, 2016
Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis pictured with twenty-one new correction officers including Auburn resident Officer Nicholas Sullivan
at the recent WCSO Graduation ceremony held on at Anna Maria College (Submitted photo)
Auburn Daily News – March 16, 2016
Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis recently welcomed twenty-one new correction officers to the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office during a graduation ceremony held on December 11th at Anna Maria College.
Officer Nicholas Sullivan of Auburn was part of the 44th Graduating class of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Basic Recruit Training Academy. The group which also included six military servicemen were the ninth class to graduate under Sheriff Evangelidis’ increased hiring standards which he introduced shortly after taking office.
Since taking office, Evangelidis has made significant changes to the hiring standards in order to professionalize the department. All correctional officer applicants must have, at minimum, an associates degree or at least two years of military service. They must also take and pass a written exam, physical fitness test, background check and psychological screening test. Evangelidis has also implemented a policy that prohibits the acceptance of letters of recommendation from politicians while United States military applicants are given priority status in the hiring process.
“With over 6,200 inmates going through the jail doors each year, we look for the best individuals we can find to make our community a safer place and to ensure the public safety of our citizens. Our new officers have met the highest hiring standards in corrections today and have completed the finest training academy in Massachusetts” Evangelidis continued “Corrections is a hard job with significant challenges, our success although difficult to quantify will be measured by the crimes that are never committed in our community.” said Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis.
During the twelve week academy recruits are taught to handle the daily challenges of safely keeping the care, custody, and control of inmates incarcerated at the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction. Classroom topics include legal issues, mental health in a correctional setting, staff/inmate interaction, security/emergency procedures, interpersonal communication skills and use of force regulations.
In addition, instructors use hands-on training to teach defensive tactics, fire safety, use of restraint, searches, driver training, weapons qualification and physical fitness is held daily. Students are also quizzed on policy weekly and recruits must maintain an academic average of at least 70 percent in order to graduate.
Also during the academy the recruits performed community service donating to Planting the Seed Foundation’s Annual Toy Drive, assisting with the Sheriff’s 10th Annual Food Drive, serving breakfast at St. John’s Food for the Poor Program in Worcester as well as running as a unit in the Veterans Memorial 5K Road Race and Walk.
“All twenty-one officers graduating here today should be very proud, as you have demonstrated hard work and dedication over the past twelve weeks in overcoming the challenges presented. I look forward to working with each and everyone of you.” said Evangelidis.