Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Always at Watch, Fallen K-9 Police Dog Officer Caster Gets Memorial Bench on Front Lawn at BES and Special Book

The memorial bench for Blairstown K-9 Officer Caster is presented by Superintendent Patrick Ketch, Chief Scott Johnsen, Caster’s partner Cpl. Richard Herzer, Officers Christian Hart and James Dillon, and Principal Colleen Silvestri. Photo by J. Phalon, 6/2023

Caster, the Blairstown Police K-9 officer who crossed the Rainbow Bridge earlier this year, was honored by his friends at Blairstown Elementary School on June 9.

“We are here today in honor of our town’s fallen Police K-9, Officer Caster,” said Tammy Messina, adviser to the Climate and Culture Committee. “His end of watch was January 8, 2023, and he was a well-loved Police Dog by all.”

Caster was a well-known face in the halls and classrooms of BES, Messina said. He could
frequently be seen walking the hallways and the perimeter of the building with his handler, Cpl. Richard Herzer.

“The two of them would often go into classrooms and provide lessons of the type of training
needed for both the dog and the handler to become a police K-9 unit,” Messina told students and staff who gathered in the gym to show their appreciation for Caster. “In today’s society we recognize the need and the importance of the K-9 Unit.”

To honor Caster, the Climate and Culture Committee unveiled a bench and plaque, which was placed on the front lawn of the school grounds.

“His service to our community is exactly what the words on the plaque you’re about to see
state. Born to love, trained to serve, protecting us all at BES,” Messina said.

In addition to the bench, BES media specialist Kerry Erickson chose a book for the school library titled, “Sherlock—A Police Dog Story.” The book will be read to the classes in the future, Messina said, and it has an inscription honoring Caster.

A graduate of the Union County Sheriff’s Office Canine Training Academy for Narcotics
Detection and Patrol where he trained with Cpl. Herzer, Castor arrived in Blairstown in 2018.

Castor is credited with many accomplishments with the Blairstown Police including drug
investigations, tracking and searches.

A Belgian Malinois, Castor was a key component in the police department’s expansion of
resources in 2018. Along with the K-9 unit, the department added two officers and extended coverage hours.

“Castor will be greatly missed by our department and the people he worked and served
alongside,” police said in a statement.

“In addition to routine law enforcement efforts, the Police Department is working multiple
fronts to combat the opioid epidemic,” said Chief Scott Johnsen. “The department is building close relationships with students, educators, and administrators at local schools so that our youngest citizens recognize the role of our police officers as trusted allies in protecting our community.”

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.