These Long Island dogs had their day Tuesday.
The Suffolk County Police Department honored the pair of pooches, who recently completed 16 weeks of training with their new human partners in criminal apprehension, evidence recovery, obedience and tracking.
Canine Section Commanding Officer James Curley told the dozens of cops and well-wishers at the graduation ceremony in Ronkonkoma for Rafeh and Doc that the training program is one of the longest offered by the department, second only to 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.”
Officer Bryan Lawrence said he named his new canine partner Rafeh, after his best friend Officer Fadi Rafeh, who died unexpectedly in 2019 at 38 years old. Lawrence was issued shield number 6156 when he joined the department, while Rafeh was issued shield number 6157.
“I just wanted to honor his life and to make sure he’s never forgotten,” Lawrence said of Rafeh, his police academy classmate and colleague in the Fifth Precinct. “He meant so much to us at the precinct and so much to me as a friend.
Rafeh’s widow, Jennifer Rafeh, and their two sons Benjamin and Nicholas, were among those who attended Tuesday’s ceremony. Jennifer Rafeh said she was thrilled when Lawrence told her he wanted to name his canine partner after her husband.
“Bryan has dreamed of being a canine police officer since he started the job,” she said, “so when he got the call that he made the canine unit we were so happy for him, and then to hear that he was going to name the dog after my husband was just incredible.”
Rafeh’s sons placed a new police collar on the nearly 2-year-old dog during the ceremony — and speaking of collars, Rafeh, a Belgian Malinois, and Lawrence helped the Suffolk police Highway Unit apprehend a suspect last week, their first week working in the field together.
“We were looking for a subject who took off from the highway unit and was hiding in the woods,” Lawrence said. “Rafeh was able to locate him and we were able to put him into custody.”
Officer Jennifer Moody named her new canine partner Doc in honor of her brother Glenn, a Navy corpsman in Iraq and Afghanistan who died in 2020. Moody and Doc did not attend Tuesday’s graduation ceremony.
With James Carbone
Michael O’Keeffe covers Suffolk County police and other Long Island law-enforcement agencies. He is an award-winning journalist and the co-author of two books, “The Card” and “American Icon.”
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