Cumberland County Hires First K-9 Officer Team to Patrol School
The first K-9 officer team in New Jersey to work full time and perform campus safety and security duties on a high school or college campus comes in the wake of active school shootings happening around the country.
Every day, handler Steve Manera and his 2 1/2-year-old Dutch shepherd, Meadow, report for duty at the Cumberland County Technical Education Center in Vineland and at Cumberland County College.
Manera said the CCTEC superintendent, Dina Rossi, was approached by Joe Nick, the director of the K-9 Academy in Atlantic County, who said he had an idea of having a dog patrol schools.
Rossi got permission from the Board of Education and Manera then volunteered to be Meadow's handler. The two have been together since June and have been patrolling the schools since September.
Manera said a typical day for him and Meadow means the two patrol the hallways and cafeterias at both the high school and college. She also randomly sniffs lockers for weapons.
When buses come, they make sure no weapons are being brought into the schools.
Meadow is also trained to sniff out gunpowder. If someone was to bring a gun to school and start shooting, she alerts on the sound of the gunshots and brings Manera to the area of the gunfire. Manera then assesses the situation and decides whether or not to release Meadow to attack.
Manera said Meadow is loved by the students and staff, who always want to pet her, but Manera does not allow it because she's a working dog.
Meadow goes home with Steve every night. He said it was an adjustment at first when she came to live with him and his wife and daughter because they have another pet at home.
Meadow's name used to be Nova. But Manera said she was renamed after Meadow Pollack, an 18-year-old girl who was killed in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day 2018.
Manera said he reached to Meadow's father, Andrew Pollack, on Facebook to get his blessing that Nova be renamed in honor of his daughter. Pollack agreed saying his daughter would have wanted the schools safer.
Manera and Pollack have remained friends. Pollack attended Manera and Meadow's graduation ceremony at the Atlantic County John Sonny Burke K-9 Academy two weeks ago.
"The school dog program, I think, should catch on to the rest of the United States. Hopefully it will. She protects the students and the staff here and that makes them feel safer so learning is easier for the students, I think," said Manera.