Walking through the halls of the Robbinsville Police Department headquarters, Det. Scott Kivet points and signals to different areas. His yellow lab, Quori, dutifully sniffs at each spot Kivet points to, only stopping when his nose detects something he’s been diligently trained to smell: marijuana.
The drug is locked up in a drawer installed into the wall about five feet high. The dog doesn’t bark or even yelp when he finds it, though. He pokes his nose toward the drawer, waiting for the towel he gets to play with after he makes a successful find.
It’s all in a day’s work for Quori, one of the newest members of the Robbinsville police force. He accompanies Kivet during his daily traffic stops, sniffing for concealed drugs and adding to what the department already does.
“Now, our reputation is for drug and addiction,” Kivet said. “We do a lot with drug recovery, interventions, stuff like that. He supplements us now. We don’t need a patrol attack dog.”
Kivet picked Quori up from the Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia, where he was bred and trained, on Sept. 26, and the two immediately bonded.
Quori is valuable outside of searches, too, Kivet said. He’s a positive resource in the community, whether he’s visiting an elementary school or exploring around the police department headquarters. At times, Quori doesn’t act like the stereotypical police dog—he can be playful and excitable, and he loves to get pet. Kivet sees a little bit of himself in Quori.
“We’re just a little different approach,” he said. “Not very militant. He’s social. Normal dogs, they’re biting and barking. He’s like, you want to take him to the schools, kiss the kids, positive. That’s how I operate, too. When I do car stops, it’s always, ‘Hey, how are you, license, registration, insurance.’ He’s a good boy.”
That’s not to say Kivet and Quori don’t take their responsibilities seriously. Police dogs are often brought over to the United States from European breeders, and once an officer chooses his or her dog, training begins. At Penn Vet, though, every dog is trained prior to teaming up with an officer.
Every search Quori did during training starting at eight weeks old was recorded and studied, and he and Kivet went through a 10-week attorney general guideline class, which Quori graduated from in December.
“It’s a strong foundation program,” said Annemarie DeAngelo, the training director at Penn Vet Working Dog Center. “By the time we imprint them, they already know how to search. They know how to indicate. The hard part is teaching the other end of the lead. All the dogs work on the same foundation program. We see where their strengths are and what they like to do. The happier they are when they’re doing their job, the better they’re going to work.”
Quori was initially set to do live finds—urban search and rescue, sniffing out bodies in rubble—but made the transition to drugs. Now, he’s able to indentify 450 different drugs, including MDMA, cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, LSD, crystal meth and heroin, which Kivet calls Quori’s specialty.
Quori finds heroin almost every day. Kivet added that Quori is one of the first dogs in the area that can identify opiods like percocet, oxycodone and synthetic heroin. Taking heroin off of the streets and confronting heroin addiction and recovery has become a passion project for Kivet, so having Quori to assist is just an added bonus.
“It’s a mental illness where they have to fight for survival,” he said. “Every morning, they have to have that drug. Some of these people are good people. Some of these people are bad people. My thing is to kick somebody in the butt and get on the better path.”
DeAngelo said that passion and hard work was evident from the first time she met Kivet.
“He did a complete turnaround,” said DeAngelo, a retired 31-year state police veteran and the original founder of the New Jersey State Police Canine Unit. “Scott has had pets, but it’s different to be able to read a dog’s body language. A couple of weeks before they were ready to go, they were really getting it. They’re going to be an excellent team.”
Kivet said Robbinsville Chief of Police Chris Nitti asked him if he wanted a dog last year—Robbinsville has had two police dogs in the past—and he jumped at the chance as soon as his wife, Danielle, agreed to it. Danielle is pregnant (and the couple already has two cats and a yellow lab at home), so she was nervous at first, but Kivet said she fell in love with Quori as soon as she met him.
And so did Kivet. His eyes light up when he talks about the dog’s skills, temperament and intelligence.
“We have technology—we run plates, see if people have warrants,” he said. “With the dogs, it’s more about ability. Quori, he identifies stuff that we don’t see or smell. His sensories are amazing. Hundreds of times more than us. When we smell an apple pie, we’re like, ‘Mmm, that smells like a good apple pie.’ He smells the apple pie, but he smells the brown sugar, the apples, the bread. He breaks it down. He is just significant.”
Quori’s nose is trained to go right to whatever drug he smells, and once he finds something, he looks forward to playing with his reward—a rolled-up towel that he treats like a toy. He can detect odor from behind outlets, in drop ceilings and in hidden compartments called “voids.” Kivet says these are common in cars, and they can be very advanced—setting the car radio to a certain station and turning the air conditioner on might reveal a false floor where kilos of heroin are concealed, for example.
“You can’t fool him,” Kivet said. “It’s not a like a game of poker. ‘My job is to find that. If I smell it, daddy, I’m going to tell you, and I want my towel.’ The dog has such integrity. He doesn’t false. He’s been on-point.”
Kivet and Quori did 450 searches in training alone, and Kivet said Quori “falsed” just twice: once because he smelled a cat, and again after indicating a spot in a pipe trace where drugs were previously present but not at the time of the search. He’s mastered the art of avoiding distractions like the cat, loud noises or a change in the wind.
“I just have pride with him,” Kivet said. “Every dog that’s certified is good. I don’t want to say I’m cocky, but I’m confident with him. I know him. I’m pretty good at a methodical search, but he is so methodical and systematic. he doesn’t look with his eyes. He looks with his nose. I don’t want to say my job is going to be easier, but the stuff that I may miss, I’m not going to miss anymore.”