Officer chosen, dog sought for canine unit

LAWRENCE — A Lawrence police canine cruiser has been retrofitted and an officer selected. Lawrence police now just have to find and select a dog to purchase and train.

“We are trying to get the best fit for us and working with a couple of different vendors,” said police Chief Roy Vasque, of the department’s new canine, which will likely be a German shepherd or a Belgian Malinois breed. 

Using grant money, Lawrence police are bringing back their own canine unit after about a decade without one due to budget constraints.

Officer Daniel Smart, who lives in Lawrence, was recently selected as the department’s new canine officer. Ten officers applied for the position, Vasque said.

A Marine Corps veteran, Smart will start training with the Boston Police Department next month. A kennel for the dog will be installed at his home. 

Smart is a North Andover High School graduate who holds a master’s degree in criminal justice. He began his law enforcement career at the Essex County Sheriff’s Department and became a Lawrence police officer in 2005. On Lawrence police, he’s been assigned to patrol, the SWAT and as a school resource officer.

He also currently serves in the Army National Guard, police said. 

Vasque said Smart’s demeanor, love of dogs and military background all made him a “well rounded, good candidate.” 

“He’s very responsible and enthusiastic,” he said. 

The cruiser Smart will use now has a cage, special doors and extra air conditioning. 

Vasque hopes Smart and the new dog will be trained and ready to hit the streets by December. 

“That’s our hope right now,” he said. 

Smart and the dog will be involved in everything from crowd control, missing persons searches, narcotics and gun cases, and other community policing efforts. 

Vasque also wants the dog to be introduced in the schools, at senior events and neighborhood meetings. 

A $25,000 grant from the Stanton Foundation is being used to restart the canine unit. 

The Stanton Foundation is a private organization established by the late Frank Stanton, a long-time president of Columbia Broadcasting System, “CBS.” 

The foundation focuses primarily on three areas which Stanton was unable to complete within his lifetime which includes “advancing canine welfare,” according to the foundation’s website. 

Capt. Scott McNamara and Lt. Maurice Aguiler interviewed the canine officer candidates and made a recommendation to Vasque, he said. 

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill. 

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