Port Authority Police Department Officer Talan Williams and K-9 Officer Ofra Williams began working together this spring after completing a comprehensive training program.
K-9 joined police department earlier this year, trained to discover narcotics
In many ways, Port Authority Police Officer Ofra Williams is much like her other colleagues in the department. She’s brave, dedicated, and good at her job. However, she also enjoys the occasional belly rub and game of fetch.
Ofra, a two-year-old German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix, joined the force in January after an extensive search for GPA’s first K-9. Her handler, Officer Talan Williams, said GPA looked at several different dogs at the Southern Coast K-9 facility in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. After watching the dogs work, it become clear that Ofra was the perfect fit for the GPA team. She was also given Williams’ last name when she came aboard.
Ofra, or “Mama” as she’s affectionately known at GPA, is certified with the National Narcotic Detector Dog Association (NNDDA). She is trained to detect the odors of six types of narcotics — marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and black tar heroin.
Williams and Ofra recently completed a four-week training course with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department. During that time, Ofra practiced locating narcotics hidden inside homes and in vehicles. Every time Ofra has a successful hit, she immediately sits to signal an additional search is needed.
Williams credits Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department K-9 handler Dustin Lanier and Lieutenant Jason Livie with Chatham County for being instrumental in Ofra’s transition to real-world searches.
Williams said Ofra usually worked in a single room during training sessions, so she had to adjust to working in a much larger environment at Garden City Terminal. Williams said many people he’s encountered on terminal are surprised to see Ofra accompanying him on searches.
Despite distractions in the environment, Ofra has no problem getting down to business.
“She’s just out here to do her job,” Williams said.
Like many police dogs, Officer Ofra originally came from Europe. In Ofra’s case, she was born in Hungary. Dogs are often trained using German commands prior to importation to the United States.
“Sook!” Williams calls out the search command during a recent random inspection at Garden City Terminal Gate 1. Ofra immediately gets to work, sniffing every inch of the vehicle for a hint of drugs. Ofra can smell narcotics up to 60 days after it’s been in a location.
If Ofra successfully discovers drugs on terminal, she is rewarded with her most coveted prize — a florescent yellow tennis ball. Ofra doesn’t get the ball on this search and returns to her kennel in Williams’ custom Ford Explorer.
The vehicle is equipped with multiple features to ensure Ofra’s safety including a personal air-conditioning system and an Ace K-9 Heat Alarm that automatically rolls down the windows, triggers lights and sirens and alerts Williams’ phone if the temperature rises above acceptable levels.
As Ofra and Williams continue their patrol, Ofra continuously turns around in her kennel as she awaits her next job.
“We’re readily available to all terminals,” Williams said. “If the phone rings, we need to go.”
In addition to terminal patrols, the pair have also assisted in searches with Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard. At the end of her shift, Ofra accompanies Williams home where she has become a part of his family. While Ofra has many toys at home, the tennis ball is not one of them. That’s only reserved for work.
As a full-time Port Police officer, Ofra receives benefits just like any other employee including health care coverage. As one might imagine, she is also popular with co-workers. She routinely visits other departments for head pats and treats.
Williams said Ofra will work until it’s time to retire, at which time she’ll join the Williams family full-time. He said he wasn’t used to having a pet with him all the time, but the partnership has already brought him great joy.
“I’ve enjoyed everything about having her,” Williams said. “I love watching her work and getting to train her.”