RTA K-9 Team

Duties and responsibilities

  • Seven teams of officer (handler) and K-9 (canine)
  • Explosive detection on trains, buses, and all RTA property
  • Assist Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) Team
  • Assist Anti-Terrorism Team
  • Help neighboring communities that don’t have dedicated explosive detection teams
  • Dogs live with their handlers and are part of their families
  • RTA maintains the seven teams on-call for around-the-clock incident response
  • 1 Sergeant on K-9 team
  • Sergeant Sean Herpka manages the K-9 Team

Five TSA teams

  • Trained by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX
    • Initial training was 10 weeks
    • Require three- to four-day annual re-certification
  • Part of TSA National Explosion Detection K-9 Team Program
  • History: TSA provided three dogs, vehicles and training to RTA teams in Third Quarter 2009
  • Three initial TSA teams started work in Fourth Quarter 2009
  • Two new teams trained late 2011, certified and working February 2012
  • TSA provides approximately $40,000/year for each dog to RTA
  • Used for explosives detection; also monitoring /patrolling the safety of passengers on RTA

RTA / TSA team members

  • Cobra, 7-year old female German Shepherd, and her handler, Officer P.J. Rivera
  • Sspence*, 7-year-old Black Labrador, and his handler, Officer Gary Cantwell
  • Hunter, 4-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer, and his handler, Officer Jeff Farr
  • Tava, 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, and her handler, Officer Brian Novak
  • Ben, 1-year-old Yellow Labrador and his handler, Officer Chris Pfeiffer

*Sspence: Spelling is correct; Sspence is named after a Sept. 11 victim,

as part of the TSA Sept. 11 memorial program (details below).

Two RTA K-9 teams

  • Primarily used for explosives detection
  • Also used for human tracking and apprehension
  • Dogs, vehicles and training purchased through a 2005 Transit Security Grant
  • Often seen patrolling RTA trains, stations, buses and other RTA properties
  • One new team trained in 2012, certified and working 2012

Team members

  • Silas, 7-year-old German Shepherd, and his hander, Officer Chris Kopp
  • Axo, 3-year-old German Shepherd,  and his handler, Officer Dennis Harmon

Details on K-9 Sspence

Sspence was born on Feb. 20, 2007, and was named after Maynard S. Spence, a victim of Sept. 11. Sspence was initially assigned to LAX Airport Police in September 2008. He came to RTA in November 2011.

Sspence has a brother, Ssynder, working in MBTA, and a brother, Ssands, working for the Specialized Search Dog Program with the Dept. of Defense. His sister, Ssimone, works at the Guam International Airport. His Mom, Kkelly, retired from BWI in December 2010. His father is a Field Trail Champion from Houston, Texas.

*The double first letter in the pup's name is tracking for TSA only. Pronounciation doesn't change.

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Contact info

Transit Police
1240 West 6th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44113-1877
216-566-5163, emergency number, 24/7

Transit Police main page

Learn more about the K-9 unit

Tips for staying safe on RTA

Community outreach

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