The WWP News in conjunction with West Windsor Gives Back, a new community organization, will be running articles throughout 2018 in celebration of the West Windsor Police Department’s 50th anniversary.
Most people don’t have the good fortune to spend each day with their best friend, but West Windsor Police Officer Doug Montgomery does. He and K9 Cherno, a long-haired German Shepherd, work and live together every day.
Montgomery had police work in his blood from a young age. In fact, his mom likes to share the story that she would find him donning his toy badge and holster directing traffic on their street. Montgomery recalls seeing his neighbor who was a police officer leave for work each day with his K9 dog. He thought to himself, “It doesn’t get better than that.”
Montgomery attended Kean College after graduating from Middletown North High School. After three years he realized that he was looking for something else. He had heard that military experience would bode well with a career in law enforcement.
Around that time, the U.S. was involved in Operation Desert Storm and Montgomery was inspired to join the Marines. He served from 1991 to 1996, traveling the world before coming back to the U.S. with a post at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. It was while stationed in North Carolina that Montgomery met his future wife, Tracy.
They married and settled in New Jersey where Montgomery took a job as a 911 dispatcher for Middletown Township. A short time later he was hired as a sheriff’s officer for the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Department and he joined the Monmouth County Police Academy.
After graduation, a friend told him about an opportunity with the West Windsor Police Department and Montgomery decided to apply. Out of 350 applicants, he scored in the top 10. After the oral exam, he was the number one recruit.
The WWPD is known for its tough testing, both mental and physical. Montgomery attributes his high test performance with the discipline and dedication he learned while a Marine. He immediately recognized those same attributes among the WWPD officers and knew he wanted to be part of that group.
In fact, he was so drawn to the WWPD that he turned down an opportunity to interview for a position with nearby Ocean Township Police. It was not an easy decision with a baby daughter at home; however, any reservations he had were quickly allayed when the Ocean Township police chief told him that “he’d be a fool” not to take the WWPD job.
WWPD’s K9 unit was formed in 2005 with Officer Tom Moody and K9 Edy. Because West Windsor is home to the heavily traveled Princeton Junction train station, as well as the busy Route 1, the WWPD qualifies for a grant from the Department of Homeland Security. That grant helps run its K9 unit. Montgomery became involved with the K9 unit when he got 15-month old Cherno in 2010.
Together they completed the 14-week state police training that certifies Cherno as an explosive detection canine. The program teaches the dogs to detect some 20 different explosive materials.
Cherno is also trained as a patrol dog to assist Montgomery with other daily police work. Montgomery says that it’s hard to put into words how strong the bond is between him and Cherno. “He is like family to us. In fact, my wife jokingly refers to Cherno as ‘your son.’”
Montgomery notes that he and Cherno have shared many great experiences while on the job. He recounts the time the Dalai Lama was in the area and staying at a local hotel. He and Cherno had done a sweep of the hotel and the room where the Dalai Lama would stay. Afterwards, they had the opportunity to meet the world-famous religious leader who was quite enamored of Cherno.
“The Dalai Lama was playing with him, making funny faces and sounds,” Montgomery says. Normally, such actions would put Cherno on high alert for danger but “he sensed that the Dalai Lama was not a threat and really enjoyed his attention.”
Cherno will soon turn 10 years old and Montgomery knows the dog’s working days are limited. For that reason, in March of this year, a new K9 member joined Officer Montgomery and Cherno. Two-year old K9 Mackey is now a part of Montgomery’s family and work.
Montgomery speaks frankly about the negative police stories that have been in national news recently. He acknowledges the problems, but wants people to know that most police officers are there to help. That’s why he’s especially proud of West Windsor’s success with community policing over the years.
Montgomery says he is passionate about building strong ties between the police and the township residents and often appears at community events with Cherno and now Mackey as well.
One fundraiser in particular close to Montgomery’s heart is “Operation Bark Drop.” Every year a box is set up in the station lobby for residents to drop off supplies like food, beds, blankets, bowls and toys. The local PBA also donates money and a few national pet supply chains donate items. All donations and proceeds go to local no-kill animal shelters.
Once K9 Mackey completes his patrol training, Montgomery will begin the emotionally difficult process of easing K9 Cherno into retirement. “He loves to work so I don’t want to cut him off completely. He will still join us for our patrols until he no longer wants to. I will let him tell me when he is ready to retire completely.”
Although, they have been together for many years, Montgomery is still impressed by how good Cherno is at his job. He is extremely protective and can completely subdue a suspect with his fierce presence and bark. “At the same time, he is still a dog who loves meeting the kids in town and getting belly rubs.”
For more information about WWGB and the events celebrating the WWPD’s 50th Anniversary, or to donate towards the purchase of a drone for the police department, see WW Gives Back on Facebook, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @K9Mackey on Instagram.