Police dog Rocky answered his final radio call at a special ceremony attended by more than 100 members of law enforcement at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton on Monday, September 10.
Rocky, a seven-year veteran of the Riverhead Police Department, was killed when the cruiser he was riding in with his handler careened off the roadway into a wooded area and he was ejected from the cab during a police chase of a suspect who fled a sobriety checkpoint on September 2. Rocky was cremated and a private funeral was held with family and friends, but he was feted in a public ceremony led by the department’s brass and was given the honor of a funeral procession from the park to police headquarters for a final drive-by, a law enforcement tradition for fallen officers.
“It’s an honor for the dog,” said Lieutenant David Lessard. “He was a great canine and he was tragically lost, so this is a memorial to him. We consider him a member of the police department and also a family member.”
Rocky had extensive training and was used for tracking, search and rescue, and narcotics — more recently being involved in a major search and seizure operation, according to Lt. Lessard. “Like any of these dogs, they are pretty much trained to be around their handler, but Rocky was very special,” he said, noting the dog was able to be around other people with ease. “We would bring him to special events and he would interact with the public and children, so he was a very people-friendly dog.”
The police department headquarters’ exterior was adorned with purple and black striped bunting and the American flag flew at half mast as about 80 people gathered outside to pay their respects as Rocky’s funeral cortège made its way down Howell Avenue into the parking lot. About a dozen police officers lined up to salute beside two cruisers with flashing lights.
The German Shepherd’s funeral was attended by representatives from Southold, Southampton, and East Hampton town police departments, New York State Police, and Nassau County Police Departments.
Riverhead Police crossing guard Kelly Daniels of Riverhead, who was one of about 80 people who gathered outside of town hall for Rocky’s final drive-by, said she dropped by work out of respect for the dog and his handler. “It is going to be a big piece of his life gone because they live with their dogs. It’s sad,” she said.
Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps Captain Mike Caron said he and about a dozen crew members were on hand to support their co-workers in the police department.
“We work very closely with the police department on a day-to-day basis. We are here to give support to them during their time of grief,” he said.
Lt. Lessard said Rocky’s handler is recovering from minor injuries. “But I am sure it is going to be hard for him, emotionally,” he said.
Rocky is the second police dog killed in the line of duty. Another dog was shot in a scuffle with a suspect in the early 1990s and a monument is now planned to honor both dogs.