Three officers graduate from canine academy

Feb 23, 2018

The Bristol County Sheriff's Office graduated three new canine officers, including one with a special connection to a Dartmouth family.

The department held a graduation ceremony for the new officers - William Dillingham and partner Sharpy, Scott Robbins and partner Jerry, and Kenneth Almeida and partner Will - on February 23 at the department’s Dartmouth headquarters.

Attending the graduation ceremonies was a special guest: Dolores Costa and her family. The Dartmouth woman made a $1,000 donation to the sheriff’s office’s canine program in memory of her husband William Costa, who passed away in January 2016.

Almeida’s canine partner Will is named in William’s honor. The former Marine loved animals, and he and his wife of 57 tears had 11 dogs over the years.

“My father used to call [my husband] Willy, so hearing the name Will is special,” Costa said. “He’s looking down on us right now and he’s so happy. The whole family is happy.”

Friday’s ceremony marked the conclusion of the 16-week canine academy for Bristol County’s new officers. They spent the past four months training on everything from physical endurance and agility to tracking, protection and building searches.

Dillingham, Robbins and Almeida received a rousing, standing ovation from friends and family after Sheriff Hodgson presented them with completion certificates. All three started their BCSO careers as corrections officers years ago.

“We are all so incredibly proud of these committed public servants who will put their lives on the line every day to protect the people,” Sheriff Hodgson said of officers Dillingham, Robbins and Almeida. “They’ve trained extremely hard over the last 16 weeks. We know their canines become another member of the family, and that bond is as important to the family as it is to the officer.”

The new officers join Officers Brennan Bulgar, Mike Bettencourt and Joao Santos to form the Bristol County K9 Division. The team is led by Lt. Paul Douglas, who heads the training academy, and Col. Robert J. Sylvia.

“I couldn’t be more proud of both of you and the great work you do and continue to do,” Sheriff Hodgson said to Lt. Douglas and Col. Sylvia. “Without a doubt, the canine unit here at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office is the best in the state.”

Bristol County’s canine team is now up to full strength, and officers and canines are on shift and available to every city and town in Bristol County 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Sheriff Hodgson also thanked other donors for their support of the program. In addition to Costa, who pledged to make an annual gift on behalf of her family, he also thanked Michael Panagakos and Dr. David and Jane Askew of Dartmouth Dental, and police officers from Fall River, Freetown, Dartmouth, Rehoboth, Mansfield and other communities who attended the ceremony.

The ceremony also marked the conclusion of an internship program for a group of high school interns on the canine team. The program offers students a chance to learn about law enforcement and corrections.

Sierra Riggins of Dartmouth High School was presented with a completion certificate. Dartmouth High student Zachary Duarte also interned, but was unable to attend the ceremony.