Officer William Comerro has helped keep the Red Hawk community safe for ten years now.
He started off on patrol and became a K9 officer after his first year. In this position, he is mainly responsible for handling K9 dogs and responding to drug and bomb calls.
Although he admits that he can go up to two weeks without a call involving drugs or suspicious packages, he agrees that it’s better to have the protection and not need it, than to need it and not have it available.
“I don’t know why you wouldn’t want a bomb dog on campus—I mean it’s a good thing,” said Comerro. “Normally if something happens and you have to call an outside agency, most of them won’t search packages. So now you’re going to have the bomb squad show up, and the robot come out. [But] with me I come with my unmarked car, I can clear it nice and safe and get it out of the way.”
Not only does having drug and bomb sniffing dogs on campus limit chaos in the event that a threat or a bombing occurs, but according to Comerro, the dogs also help bring in more students.
“Ninety percent of the people want it here,” said Comerro. “When I do the open houses for parents that come here, some people say, ‘Oh, my kids are coming here now that there are dogs’—they love it.”
In addition to being the handler for his black Labrador Retriever K9, Roxy, and his German Shepherd K9, Blue, Comerro is also responsible for training K9 dogs for Essex County, Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department and Carteret Police Department. He noted how he could be called upon to take drug and bob calls outside of Montclair State. Sometimes he and his canine partners may even be needed as support to help out with big jobs that require more noses.
“I need a lot of guys [when] I’m doing a big building. I cannot search University Hall by myself. It will not happen,” said Comerro. “So if I need somebody, I can call right away, and they can call me right away. It works both ways.”
Now that he is responsible for training outside departments, Comerro explained how he often uses buildings at Montclair State for training large groups of K9 dogs.
“It’s hard for us to get buildings to search,” said Comerro. “So usually in May I got everybody coming up. State police, Passaic County, Essex County and we all pick floors and run them.”
According to Comerro, May is a great time for training because many of the students have just left for summer break and their dorms are still dirty. The K9 officers prefer the dirty dorms because they want the dogs to be exposed to all the different smells that the students have in their rooms.
Throughout the year, K9 Blue searches dorms and vehicles for drugs. K9 Roxy takes bomb calls, unintended packages and is also trained to find guns. Although Blue and Roxy are working with Comerro all the time, he insists that work for them is all play.
Comerro did, however, admit that having canine partners does pose a bit of a challenge. He recalled a recent illness that the dogs were still recovering from.
“With them being sick I haven’t been able to sleep all weekend,” said Comerro. “I went away last week and they caught something at the kennels that they were staying at, and I have been dealing with them every two hours so they don’t make a mess in the house.”
When asked if he takes sole responsibility of caring for the dogs, Comerro replied jokingly, “Yes, I am their all.”