K-9 Crime Stoppers: 15 years of assisting local police

By Brenda Sullivan - ReminderNews
Manchester - posted Wed., Aug. 3, 2011
Bryan Colletti works with a new police-dog-in-training, Youk, with the help of volunteer Jason Davis. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

More than 15 years ago, Bryan Colletti was training a puppy in a local park when he was spotted by an East Hartford police officer. After watching for a while, the officer approached Colletti and told him how impressed he was with the trust and respect he observed between Colletti and the dog.

The officer invited Colletti to train a dog for a police K-9 team, and it was this encounter that would evolve into the K-9 Crime Stoppers organization Colletti heads today.

To call it an organization, however, might be misleading. K-9 Crime Stoppers is basically Colletti and a handful of volunteers who help when needed.

Colletti hopes this will change, however. “Ideally, what I’d like to happen is that K-9 Crime Stoppers finds a corporate sponsor or a private foundation to support us in the same way as Fidelco,” he said of the organization that trains guide dogs.

He’d also like help with fundraising and bookkeeping. He’s currently working on the necessary paperwork to qualify as a 501(c) nonprofit entity. “That’s the end of things that I’m not that good at. It’s not what I want to spend time on. What I’m good at is working with the dogs,” he said.

Colletti doesn’t just work with dogs that he breeds, or selects from particular breeders, he also trains the other member of the K-9 team - the police officer.

All of this is time-consuming, especially when added to his job at the Manchester Post Office and his responsibilities as the father of four.

It’s not unusual for the 40-year-old Colletti to come home from work, have dinner with his children and then leave for the K-9 Crime Stoppers training center to work with a new dog.

Colletti is very grateful to Central Connecticut Co-op, a farm feed store on Oakland Street in Manchester, because they donated free space on the upper floors of the building for training. “They’ve been so generous,” he said.

Colletti’s dedication to training reliable and competent police dogs grew out of that first experience with the East Hartford Police Department, he said.

“I saw how underfunded and undertrained their [K-9] program was then… what did they know about how to select a dog? So, I wanted to become an advocate to departments that were new to the game,” he said.

He’s spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours learning the best techniques, he said. He even had a Dutch military trainer live with him for a year. “The best dog trainers will work with anyone with a thirst for knowledge,” Colletti said.

Colletti’s reputation has grown over the years to the point where he’s the go-to guy for quality police dogs.

Sgt. Tom Mitney, K-9 Unit Supervisor for the Wethersfield Police Department, credited Colletti with helping the department save thousands of dollars and giving the K-9 team of “Owen” and Officer Joe Baisch a head start on training.

If purchased on its own, the department could spend as much as $7,000 for a dog, “and we’d be starting from square one,” he said.

Instead, the department paid about half that amount, and because Colletti had worked with both the dog and officer, “by the time they went through the class, they were ahead of the game,” Mitney said. K-9 units are certified through the State Police program or the Connecticut Police Working Dog Association.

Mitney also commended Colletti for his integrity, saying he makes a point of ensuring the relationship between the officer and the dog is a good one, and that Colletti clearly cares about the animals. “I know that when it comes time to turn over the dog, it’s not easy for him,” Mitney said.

One of Colletti’s favorite K-9 teams that he trained is Manchester police officer Rob Johnson and “Dibbs” (named for a baseball player).

About five years ago, Johnson wanted to be accepted into a K-9 officer program but was turned down for lack of experience with dogs. He asked Colletti for his help. The team became so successful, “‘Dibbs’ is now one of the most decorated dogs in Connecticut,” Colletti said.

He added, “Dibbs” finished second in this year’s K-9 Olympics and has won the top spot in the past.

He also noted that “Dibbs” is of a breed that is becoming the new “in-demand” police dog around the world, a Belgian Malinois – a herding dog that is smaller than a German shepherd but known for its endurance, tracking ability, agility and power.

“They are an economical and efficient choice… they can run over 30 mph and they have the power of a German shepherd,” Colletti said. He added that they are used in France, where it is illegal for police dogs to use their teeth to take down a suspect. Instead, they are trained to deliver “muzzle punches,” he said.

For more information about Colletti’s work, find him on Facebook (“Fans of K-9 Crime Stoppers”) or e-mail bcolletti@aol.com.

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