K-9 found dead in Camden police cruiser

CAMDEN - August 13, 2012

Serge - a German shepherd - joined the force only a few months ago.

The young dog was found lifeless in his cage inside of a police cruiser last Thursday. On a sweltering 92-degree day, police say the air conditioning cut off and the backup system failed.

Camden police officers are grieving his loss.

Serge spent 16 weeks last spring training in explosives, crowd control and sociability with Officer Gabe Rodriguez at the Atlantic County K-9 police academy.

"He had already captured a bank robbery suspect and had assisted in several other apprehensions as well," said Chief Scott Thomas.

The team of two was preparing for post-graduation success manning the crime-ridden streets of Camden.

"No one is more devastated by this than Officer Rodriguez and his family," said Thomas.

It's a tragic loss for Officer Rodriguez and a major loss for local law enforcement.

"He put a lot of work into him - a lot of love and care and the dog responded. He was one of the top dogs in the class," said Officer Joe Rodriguez.

Police say it's normal to leave a K-9 in a cruiser for four to five hours at a time with the air conditioner running.

Last week, when the vehicle malfunctioned, a specialized alarm system should have sounded, the windows should have opened and emergency fans should have turned on.

It's unclear why the system failed.

"These vehicles are inspected every day before an officer heads out on street patrol. We've launched a full blown investigation to see what happened with this vehicle," said Chief Thomas.

The police department has hired an independent mechanic to investigate why the car malfunctioned.

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