The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has welcomed six officers and their canines to the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) K-9 Unit in a graduation ceremony held at Newark Liberty International Airport. The names of the canines are Romo, Mazza, Nava, Gonja, Mack and Tazzo, named in honor of fallen PAPD 9/11 officers Chief James Romito, Captain Kathy Mazza, Officer Joseph Navas, Officer Uhuru “Gonja” Houston, Officer Donald McIntyre and Officer Jon Cortazzo.
The six newly trained teams successfully completed the PAPD’s 12-week training course for certification in explosives detection. This year’s training class was a collaborative effort with the Little Ferry Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Department, Hudson County Corrections Department, US Parks Police Department and Bergen County Sheriff’s Department. The six German Shepherds, who are part of the six graduating teams, range from 17 months to two years of age, and, with their handlers, will patrol various Port Authority facilities in explosives detection capacities.
“Today and every day, we strive to honor the sacrifices of our fallen 9/11 colleagues through our work and dedication to keeping the region safe,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “This solemn tribute to name our newest K-9’s after our fallen officers is a reminder that their lives and their sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
“These new teams of canines and their handlers who received extensive training certification in explosives detection will help ensure the continued safety of our region as they patrol our airports, bridges, tunnels and other facilities,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “While we can never repay the debt owed to any of our fallen officers, today’s ceremony helps us to ensure that their legacy lives on.”
“The Port Authority Police Department is proud to welcome these six new teams of handlers and canines who will join our highly skilled K-9 unit,” said PAPD Superintendent Edward Cetnar. “We are especially thankful to the families of these fallen officers who allowed us the opportunity to name our newest K-9 class in their honor.”
The Port Authority’s K-9 unit was created in 1984. The agency began training detection canines in 1993, after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Since the start of the local training program, 125 teams have joined this specialized unit. The highly trained Explosive Detection Canine Teams function as a deterrent to terrorism directed towards transportation systems and work collaboratively with federal, state and local partners. One of the most well-known members of the K-9 team was K-9 Sirius, who was killed during the September 11, 2001 attack at the World Trade Center. K-9 Sirius was the only K-9 killed in action on 9/11.