FORT EDWARD — A few years into his four-decade law enforcement career, the late Cambridge-Greenwich Police Chief George Bell was one of the first police dog handlers for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Bell died from a heart attack on March 11, 2018, a death of a well-liked career police officer that deeply saddened many in law enforcement and around the region.
So when the Sheriff’s Office had the opportunity to add a new police dog in recent months, Sheriff Jeff Murphy said he and his staff decided that it was Bell whom the dog’s name should honor. Police agencies typically name dogs after local heroes or fallen law enforcement officers, and Bell’s place in Washington County law enforcement was well-chronicled.
The new female German shepherd was given the name Belle in honor of the late chief and was sworn into service during an emotional ceremony on Friday.
Sheriff’s Officer Ethan Macura will train with the 5-month-old puppy in the months to come and will team with the department’s two other dog handlers so the Sheriff’s Office will have a police dog on duty most shifts. That will cut back on overtime that occurs when dogs are called out for searches when their handlers are off duty, he added.
“It’s going to provide a level of protection for Ethan and the other officers on the shift,” Murphy said.
Murphy, a former Hudson Falls Police detective and deputy chief, said Bell was the only police dog handler in the county for a period of time in the 1990s, and he assisted Hudson Falls Police and other agencies whenever asked.
Sheriff’s Capt. Tony LeClaire was able to arrange for the dog to be provided to the department for free, after the breeder reached out, looking for a home for the dog, Murphy said.
The dog came from the same breeder who provided the department with one of its two other dogs, Brucha, in 2014. Brucha was named in honor of the late sheriff’s Senior Investigator Bruce Hamilton.
A contingent of police, local officials and Bell’s friends and family from around the region attended the ceremony on Friday afternoon.
Lisa Pembroke, Bell’s daughter-in-law, said that Bell would have been embarrassed by the attention. But she said he loved his time as a police dog handler and the German shepherd named Shane that he cared for through the program.
“He loved that dog more than anything,” she said. “It’s really nice for him (Bell), what they did. We’re not going to let him be forgotten.”
Cambridge Mayor Carman Bogle and the Cambridge-Greenwich officer appointed to succeed Bell in overseeing the department, Sgt. Robert Danko, were among those who got to take part in the event and meet Belle.
“This is a wonderful tribute to Chief,” Bogle said.