Thursday, September 24, 2020

Person of the Week

Fred Sego and K9 Mack Are Third K9 Team to Hit the Road for EHPD


Last month Fred Sego and Mack completed their training and started patrolling the Town of East Haven. Photo courtesy of Fred Sego

Last month Fred Sego and Mack completed their training and started patrolling the Town of East Haven. (Photo courtesy of Fred Sego )

Growing up in Naugtuck, Fred Sego remembers watching when his neighbors, two police officers, got their first police dogs. He was not only interested in the dogs and the training, but serving the community. Fred now has combined both interests as he is one of three K9 officers with the East Haven Police Department.

When he was a freshman in high school, Fred recalls meeting a recruiter for the Marines. While he was too young to sign up that year, by the time he was a junior, he had convinced his parents to sign the paperwork to enlist.

“I wanted to do it from the first day I met a recruiter in 9th grade—I wanted to be able to say I was a Marine and I wanted to serve the country,” says Fred. “My parents didn’t love the idea, but I talked them into it. It worked out really well for me. My mind was set on it and when my mind is set on something, I like to get it done.”

Fred enlisted at age 17 in 2008, serving until 2012. He was stationed in Arizona from some time and deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, serving there for seven months. One month after he returned, his time with the Marines was up.

“I didn’t necessarily want to get out then, but at 21, I knew there were a lot of other options of things I could do with my life,” says Fred. “I knew I wanted to keep serving the community, but not necessarily in the military.”

Fred began exploring his options, leaning toward becoming a police officer. His childhood neighbors still lived next to his parents and were now each on their second K9.

“They really got me into being a police officer,” says Fred. “I’d watch them train the dogs or go on ride-alongs. Becoming a police officer took a couple years and it was a hard process.”

Fred was hired by the East Haven Police Department in 2015. Earlier this year, the department opened the application process for a K9 officer and Fred jumped at the opportunity.

Several officers applied for the position and there was what Fred describes as an intense interview process that not only involved the administration at the East Haven Police Department, but also interviews with the breeder as well as the K9 training facility.

“Through the interview process, they decided to put a few dogs on—Danny Palma got Enzo and on the day we got the final results, they informed me I’d also get a K9,” says Fred. “The Hennessey family of Forbes Premium Fuel decided to donate the dog and pay for his training. They have been very supportive of the Police Department.”

Fred received his dog a few weeks after Palma received Enzo and the two began training together. The first order of business, though, was to name the dog, who is now almost two years old.

“We called him Mack because that’s the kind of trucks Forbes uses and it was the least we could do to thank them,” says Fred. “We took Mack and the other dogs to meet the family at Forbes so that was nice, too.”

Fred and Palma went through the same class at the Superior K9 training facility; both recently completed their certification.

The two were the only first-time handlers in their class and the class moved at an accelerated rate.

“My dog had some prior training and through the weeks of training, we were able to get certified,” says Fred. “Going through with Danny was good because we’d bounce ideas off each other and he was willing to help me train, too. It worked out well.”

Now, Fred and Mack are on duty. With social distancing in full effect, Fred hasn’t been able to get out into the community and interact as much as he’d like, but it has given him extra time continue Mack’s training and obedience.

“We go about our business and handle our calls, but I’ll also do some training sessions,” says Fred. “If there’s a call that needs a K9 and I’m available, I’ll get called to go assist—that goes for other towns like Branford, North Branford, North Haven, or even New Haven.”

In addition to on-shift training and continued training at home, Fred also has two required eight-hour service trainings each month. The K9s are trained in obedience, narcotics detection, and tracking.

Fred also has to expose Mack to different environments. He takes him to different businesses and stores, having him walk on different surfaces, and jump on different objects. They often visit Home Depot where Mack can practice walking up metal stairs and exploring stacks of plywood or sheetrock.

“We also go to a lot of different parks and parking lots,” says Fred. “We have fun, too. His favorite thing is the ball and we play with that, which falls hand-in-hand with obedience. We go to different environments and low-traffic and high-traffic areas to work on distraction.”

With community policing being a big focus of the East Haven Police Department, Fred is looking forward to visiting places around town with Mack. While he wants the residents to be familiar with Mack, he wants them to know that Mack is a working dog.

“Having the dog is going to be great and people will love seeing that, but at the end of the day, he’s not a pet,” Fred says. “You don’t want people to be all over him in a public setting.”

Fred’s wife Catie has been supportive of the new change in their lives. The couple married in 2018.

“She was very excited for it and knew this was something I really wanted to do,” says Fred, who also enjoys fishing, working out, and hiking. “My wife knows I’m the only one to feed him, take care of him, and give him commands, but he is social and he likes my wife a lot.”

This is not the first time Fred has taken on a bigger role with the East Haven Police Department. When he first joined, one of his goals was to join the SWAT team. After an interview process, he was selected. There was a two-week squad school followed by periodic training.

“I worked hard for it,” says Fred. “It’s been nothing but great for me. It’s great training with a great group of guys. Joining SWAT and getting the dog are two things I really wanted. I want to focus on those things and be the best I can be,” he says. “They both take a lot of training, but it’s worth it.”

Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .

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