The Ocean City Police Department has a new duo on the K-9 Unit, welcoming Police Officer First Class (Pfc.) James Runkles and partner, K-9 Breki. Breki, who was obtained by the department with narcotics forfeiture funds, joins an elite group of canine patrol teams, which are an integral part of the Ocean City Police Department.
Breki, who is a 15-month-old Belgium Malinois, comes to the Ocean City Police Department from the Slovakia, where he received specialized training for law enforcement. In addition, after his arrival in Ocean City, Pfc. Runkles and Breki completed a four-week academy-styled patrol/narcotics program, which develops the capabilities and physical conditioning of both the handler and K-9 alike. At the completion of their training, they were certified to Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commission and the North American Police Work Dog Association standards.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to use forfeiture funds to obtain such a wonderful asset to our department,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino. “This unit has been a vital part of the OCPD for more than four decades and I am glad that we can utilize funds taken from criminal activity in a way that benefits our police department and our community.”
Once on patrol, K-9 patrol teams are authorized to respond to calls for service, and are often among the first specialized units to be called to a scene. Their specific skills, including apprehension techniques, obedience, narcotics detection, searching and tracking, are a critical asset to the Ocean City Police Department. In addition to their duties and responsibilities on the road, K-9 units participate in continual training, community events and public relations functions, self-initiated patrol and/or rendering assistance to state and county law enforcement patrols in the Ocean City area.
The Ocean City Police Department is reminding citizens to be extra cautious while driving this month, as April was recently declared National Distracted Driving month. In honor of National Distracted Driving month, the Ocean City Police Department will be increasing enforcement of distracted driving laws.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 5,474 people were killed on roadways in the United States in 2009 with an estimated 448,000 people injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. NHTSA also found that 16 percent of fatal crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. Of those people killed in distracted driving related crashes, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as the distraction.
“Distracted driving comes in various forms,” said Ocean City Police Chief Bernadette DiPino. “It can be cell phone use, texting while driving, eating, drinking, talking with passengers, as well as using in-vehicle technologies and portable electronic devices. It represents all distractions that can endanger a drivers’ safety, including the three main types of distractions, which are visual, manual and cognitive.”
While all distractions can endanger drivers’ safety, texting and cell phone use are the most alarming. Currently, Maryland is one of nine states to ban handheld cell phone use and one of an additional 30 states to ban texting behind the wheel. While the bill to make handheld cell phone use a primary offense in Maryland was recently turned down, it remains a secondary offense.
Ocean City Police Lieutenant Brian Cardamone recently graduated from the FBI National Academy 224th Session at Quantico, VA. Lt. Cardamone was among 257 law enforcement officers from 49 states, as well as the District of Columbia, 20 international counties, four military organizations and four federal civilian organizations.
Lt. Cardamone began the internationally recognized program in January. His time during the National Academy Program consisted of 10 weeks of advanced investigative, management and fitness training. The FBI Academy is a very selective program in which participants must have proven records as professionals within their agency. In addition, most academy participants have 19 years of law enforcement experience (on average) and usually return to their agencies to serve in command level positions.
Lt. Cardamone worked as a seasonal police officer in 1988, 1989 and 1990 after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He was hired as a full-time police officer in the fall of 1990 and graduated from the Eastern Shore Criminal Justice Academy in May of 1991 as his class valedictorian.
Lt. Cardamone has been a member of the department’s Traffic Safety Unit since 1994, and has served as the unit’s supervisor and commander for eight years. He is certified in accident reconstruction, and as a breath test technician and intoximeter operator. He is also a certified PBT operator, RADAR operator, and LASER operator and instructor. In addition, Lt. Cardamone has taught various traffic safety topics at the Eastern Shore Criminal Justice Academy, and within the department. He has been a member of the department’s Honor Guard and Morale Committee, where he served as treasurer. Lt. Cardamone is currently assigned to the Patrol Division.
Along with his departmental duties, Lt. Cardamone has been recognized two times by the Eastern Shore Chapter of MADD for his outstanding efforts in DWI enforcement. The Worcester County Drug & Alcohol Task Force also recognized him for his dedication to alcohol and drug enforcement. Lt. Cardamone has received numerous department awards for his work in the Patrol Division.
The Ocean City Police Department’s Mounted Patrol Unit has significantly expanded over the past year, not only adding a few new horses to their group but also adding additional riders. Most recently, Officer Joseph Zurla completed his training program and was officially added as a member of the unit.
Zurla, who recently completed over 320 training hours with the Mounted Unit, joins three additional full-time unit members and two part-time riders.
Officer Zurla, who began his full-time police career with the OCPD in fall 2007, is proud to be a member of one of OCPD’s most popular units. “I am very excited to be a part of such a prestigious unit,” said Zurla. “I look forward to greater interaction with the Ocean City community and my fellow police officers.”
The OCPD Mounted Unit also added “rookie” horses this year. Some of these new mounts have already seen one summer of duty and are being used as lead-training horses to get the new “rookie” horses up to speed for the upcoming summer season.
The Ocean City Police wishes to thank the community for all its support during the yearlong building process. The mounted patrol group is looking forward to continued success as an integral part of enforcement and crime prevention strategy of the OCPD. “We are continuing to pursue new and innovative strategies that incorporate our mounted patrol in both pro-active and reactive enforcement roles,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino. “The Mounted Unit will support every facet of our departmental deployment strategy, not to mention it is wonderful to see these beautiful animals on our boardwalk.”