Essex County Sheriff’s Office: How K-9s Break Up Our Prison Fights

Top photo: Capt. Tom Cote takes Dash through a facility search. Inline photo: Lt. John Pickles and his K-9 Lennin patrol a wooded area.

WHAV is saluting local and state K-9 officers and their four-legged partners in a special series. Listen to the special Dog Days of Summer series Monday through Friday, at 97.9 WHAV FM. The special series is sponsored by the Law Offices of Joseph C. Edwards, Neptune Uniforms, Quinn’s Canine Café and Riverside Veterinary Clinic.

The Essex County Sheriff’s Office houses over 1,500 inmates on any given day, so it’s no small task to keep everyone in line. As Captain Tom Cote from the Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit tells WHAV, authorities rely on 18 trained canines for crowd control.

“Inside our jails and halfway houses, our day to day function is basically care, custody and control. The K-9 is more of the control part. Our facility in Middleton, the jail is set up almost like a college campus or an Army base. When inmates have to leave a certain building and go out onto the yard and into another building, we can have up to 120 inmates coming out in a yard and that’s when you have the potential for problems.”

To keep things flowing, Cote and his team station the canines – including Capt. Cote’s German Shepherd Dash – around the facility at high-traffic areas.

Inside, it’s up to patrolling corrections officers to alert the K-9 team to problems.

Once inside a cellblock, Cote says the dogs’ presence is usually enough to put inmates on notice. “Our role isn’t to necessarily immediately break up that fight, our role is to contain the rest of the inmates. We’ll order the inmates into their cells, come in with the dogs and push them back. Using the dogs – their presence, the barking – the inmates usually scatter, run into their cells and close their doors. That’s what our main concern is, so the incident doesn’t escalate. We actually de-escalate the situation and we do it without contact.

Despite the dogs’ menacing appearance, Cote insists his canine colleagues aren’t attack dogs.

“Our dogs are trained to bite and hold in certain areas and that’s basically how the apprehension part of it works. They’re not ‘attacking,’ they’re apprehending, and they’re using the mouths to apprehend. That’s kind of how we refer to that.”


One thought on “Essex County Sheriff’s Office: How K-9s Break Up Our Prison Fights

  1. Hopefully, this Sheriff will be a professional and a leader. Essex County is well known for abusive officers , hack appointments, and barbaric nutritional practices to say nothing of sticky fingers Cousins. None of which achieves anything positive.

    Best of luck Sheriff , were counting on you to save this deeply troubled department.