Months after gaining national recognition in an Animal Planet TV series, St. Paul’s police canine unit got local attention in separate events this week, both offering backers good news in tight times.
On Wednesday, Chief John Harrington told the City Council that department leaders objected to an audit recommendation to cut the 22-officer unit by half, prompting Council President Kathy Lantry to say, “I’m against that,” too.
And on Thursday, the police department hosted a sun-splashed graduation ceremony for new K-9 teams at its training facility. While St. Paul had no dogs of its own in the 11-team graduating class, it did share its expertise with others, police spokesman Sgt. Paul Schnell said.
Harrington’s appearance before the council came five months after a “best practices” assessment of his department by Berkshire Advisors Inc., of Bay Village, Ohio, suggested a sharp cutback in the K-9 unit, which now has 21 officers overseen by a sergeant.
The Berkshire Advisors study looked at seven other “benchmark departments,” and found the average K-9 unit had 10 officers, with Minneapolis second to St. Paul with 19. In 2007, the report added, St. Paul had 961 calls requiring a K-9 response, or an average of 46 calls per officer that year.
The department’s K-9 deployment was “extremely large,” the report concluded.
Berkshire’s K-9 recommendation was but one of many subjects the chief touched on Wednesday. He said that department leaders had looked at the feasibility and desirability of many of the study’s recommendations, and that the K-9 cutback wasn’t desirable.
‘They’re force multipliers’
“It really just doesn’t fit how St. Paul operates,” he told council members. “It doesn’t fit our culture. It doesn’t fit our values of excellence.”
No one argued.
“Please don’t do [it],” Council Member Melvin Carter III said. “The dogs are cool,” especially when jumping.
“They’re force multipliers,” Lantry said. “It just isn’t that they’re cool.”
“Yeah, all that, but they’re cool,” too, Carter replied.
“They’re part of officer safety — getting the job done,” Lantry said.
“And they’re cool,” Carter continued.
To which Lantry conceded: “I think it is, of course, very cool, too. But, I mean, they do the work of another officer.”
Sometimes 10 officers, Harrington said.
On Thursday, at the Timothy J. Jones Canine Training facility, dozens of friends, family members and law-enforcement officers welcomed participants from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin into what St. Paul Assistant Chief Tom Smith called “the brotherhood and sisterhood” of K-9 handlers.
Dogs crawled under obstacles simulating porches. They leapt through barricades resembling windows. They climbed ladders. They grabbed hold of arms of fleeing “suspects.” They barked and they heeled.
All in all it was pretty cool.
The newest member of the Winona Police Department has medium-length brown and black hair, pointy ears, a long, pink tongue and answers to Neko.
The German shepherd and her handler, officer Brad Barrientos, completed a 12-week training program with the St. Paul Police Department and graduated Thursday with 10 other K9-handler pairs from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Neko will become the only police dog on the Winona force.
Neko’s training makes her useful as a general-purpose control dog, Police Chief Paul Bostrack said. She is trained to apprehend suspects, recover evidence, sniff out drugs and find missing people. She will attend another training session later this year for narcotics recognition, which will round out her crime fighting skills, Bostrack said.
The police department is excited to have its own K9 unit on the force. The department has had dogs in the past, but recently have relied on the Winona County Sheriff’s Department and the Goodview Police Department when a dog is needed. There has been good cooperation, Bostrack said, but now things will just be a little easier.
Neko and Barrientos will patrol Winona’s streets during the night shift but will be on call all the time.
And just like that, the Hemet Police Department has a new K-9 team, maybe two.
A couple of months ago one of the K-9s, Luka, had to be retired for health reasons — and has since died — leaving the department with Mike Arillano and his dog, Fritts, the only K-9 team in the department.
But that was before, before a citizen wrote a check for $15,000 to finance the purchase of a new dog and the training of dog and handler in preparation to go into the field.
And it was before the Elks Club threw a fundraiser Saturday that raised a still-undetermined amount of money toward a third team.
When Luka retired, police began scrounging for money for a replacement K-9 team since the city does not have enough money to pay for a new dog.
In fact, said Mayor Eric McBride as the City Council prepared to present Harold “Hal” Day a plaque recognizing his $15,000 contribution to establish a K-9 team, most K-9 team are provided through donations.
Day came to the Police Department’s aid because, he said, the department had repeatedly come to his aid. Well, to his wife’s aid to be precise.
Her name is Ellen and she suffers from dementia. She has repeatedly wandered away from home and officers have found and returned her each time, Day said.
“They had to capture my wife a few times. She got loose,” Day noted dryly.
Though she is now under hospice care and will probably not be wandering away any more, Day said he wanted to help the officers who had helped Ellen.
“He asked us how much a new K-9 would cost,” Police Chief Richard Dana said. “I told him about $12,000 to $13,000. He asked if $15,000 would do it.”
“I have never seen someone come forward and donate the entire amount needed to get a dog,” said McBride during the presentation ceremony before Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
“Thank you very much,” Day said after the presentation. “Ellen probably won’t understand. I’m glad to do it because I think it is safer for the police to have a dog with them.”
Dana added that, “Ellen is a dog lover. Hal is a cat fellow,” but he gave the city a dog anyway.
Day is a retired Navy chief petty officer who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Meanwhile, officers passed the hat at the Elks Club to gather money for what will become a third K-9 team, which will give the department more units than it had before Luka’s retirement.
The Elks Club fundraiser was planned before anyone knew someone would make a single donation large enough to replace Luka.
Dana said that, while no one has done the accounting yet, he is confident the donations will come close to the amount needed to establish the third K-9 team.
Money was raised through the purchase of tickets to a hamburger-and-hot dog lunch and through face painting and other fundraising activities operating concurrently.
The remaining K-9 team, Arillano and Fritts, planned to put on a demonstration for those attending the fundraiser and Dana said that, if $100 in donations were raised from those at the fundraiser at that time, he would assume the role of suspect for the demonstration.
Officer Pat Long began passing a police hat around the crowd and returned with the $100 so Dana donned the bite suit and let Fritts attack him.
“A lot of my officers donated a lot of money, I think,” Dana said afterward.
There were other extraordinary donations, some running to $200 and “one little girl walked up and handed us $20,” Dana said.
A fundraiser for the family of slain Oakland police Sgt. Ervin Romans will be held Sunday in downtown Danville.
The “Salute to Blue” event will run from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for children. There will be food from local restaurants, wine, games and music.
There will be virtual sports games, a water slide and an inflatable ocean of balls. There will be a wine bar and grill, and a live auction featuring an Arlen Ness-autographed motorcycle and three nights at the Beverly Wilshire hotel with a guest spot on the television show “Private Practice.” Entertainment will be by Super Diamond, a Neil Diamond cover band.
The festivities will be on Diablo Road at Hartz Avenue. Tickets are $35 for adults and $10 for children. The proceeds will benefit the wife and three children of Romans, of Danville. He was one of four Oakland officers killed in the line of duty in March.
Tickets are available at www.eticketcentral.com, by calling 877-449-7542 or at the door. Donations can also be sent to Salute Entertainment/Salute To Blue, P.O. Box 911 San Ramon, CA 94583.
Those who protect and serve do so out of a sense of duty and honor-not to see their name on a shiny plaque.
Nonetheless, for the last 21 years the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office has made sure the men and women who make selfless contributions to law enforcement do not go unrecognized or underappreciated for going above and beyond the call of duty.
Those individuals as well as local police forces were recognized at the annual PROCOPS dinner, held recently at the Touch of Class II banquet hall.
PROCOPS is an acronym standing for Prosecutor’s Recognition or Citizens or Public Servants. Established in 1988, the banquet is held during National Police Week as a way to formally pay tribute to the contributions made by members of law enforcement and county citizens.
Maple Shade Sgt. Scot Wallace received commendation awards for stopping a gas station robbery in November while he was off-duty. He also helped arrest the three suspects, one of whom was armed with a handgun.
Among the citizen honorees recognized by county prosecutor Robert Bernardi was Medford resident Salvatore Rose who received a Citizen Hero award for his brave and quick actions last August when he helped Moorestown Police Officer Peter Parker pull two motorists from a burning vehicle at an accident scene on Route 38.
Parker recieved a Law Enformcent Officer Comendation for his actions.
Other members of area law enforcement honored included Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Ed Zubrzycki and Evesham Detective Jammie Clements for their work in solving the murder of 52-year-old Evesham resident Maryanne DeMartin who disappeared in 2005.
Her killer, Alex Crow, 33, of Medford was sentenced to 40 years in prison in December.
The Evesham Township Police Department Detective Bureau was also among the units recognized for its work in solving a string of arsons at area car dealerships and a pet store.
Middletown police Officer Marco Caito has been named the city’s top cop this month after apprehending a man accused of stealing $10,000 worth of pipes from a local business.
Lee Gibson, 37, of the 600 block of Charles Street, is charged with breaking and entering and two counts of theft, all felony charges.
Gibson remains in the Middletown City Jail on $15,000 bond. His case is set for a preliminary hearing on June 1 in Middletown Municipal Court.
Chief Greg Schwarber praised Caito this week for recovering the pipes and discovering Gibson had allegedly switched the license plates of the vehicle he allegedly used in the May 3 theft.
According to Middletown police, Gibson had changed the plates with three other vehicles in the event someone saw him stealing. The other vehicles’ owners had no knowledge the plates had been switched, police said.
Caito also found out it wasn’t the first time Gibson had allegedly stolen from that company, according to police.
Schwarber initiated the peer awards this year to recognize exceptional performance of the city’s police officers, who are nominated by fellow officers who then review and vote on the nominees at month’s end.
For this honor, the officer can park his personal vehicle in the department’s covered garage, which is usually reserved for administrator vehicles and police cruisers. Caito’s photo will be displayed in the department alongside past Officers of the Month in recognition of his work.
Wow. Micheala must be one VERY strong woman. It’s inspiring to see that she’s determined to find the good in this and help others in the process.
A year ago, Micheala Blanton was dreaming of her baby’s first birthday and how they would celebrate.
That was before her son, Tye, was born prematurely and with serious health problems. It was before her husband, State Trooper David Shawn Blanton Jr., was shot and killed during a traffic stop.
It was before Tye died.
But Blanton still plans to celebrate Tye’s birthday with a party and fundraiser for the Tye Blanton Foundation 2-5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Maggie Valley Country Club to benefit babies and parents at the Mission neonatal intensive care unit.
Participants are asked to bring birthday presents — preemie clothing and blankets, and things parents need — to be given to Mission Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
“Being Tye’s mom was the best thing I’ve done in my life,” Blanton said. “Celebrating his birthday with the community makes me feel like I’m still a mom. That’s how I spend time with Tye.”
Tye died in October, four months to the day after his father.
In the public eye
Blanton has been in the public eye since the death of her husband, and people across Western North Carolina have offered prayers and support throughout the last year.
She hopes to use that publicity to help others whose babies were born too soon or are critically ill and who aren’t in the public eye. Her goal now, she said, is to raise awareness and help parents and babies in the NICU.
“Nobody plans to have a preemie,” she said. “We all plan for a healthy baby, and not everybody in the NICU has the support of the community like I had.”
Many parents of sick babies are low-income and don’t have health insurance. Many travel an hour or more to the hospital. Some babies are born to drug-addicted parents who don’t or can’t visit them.
“They need so much,” Blanton said. “I just want to help them.”
Blanton didn’t know how sick Tye was until he was born with a rare heart condition. The sonograms didn’t pick it up. He couldn’t have corrective surgery until he reached 5 pounds, and he weighed about 2 pounds when he was born seven weeks early.
She was in the NICU with Tye when she got word her husband had been shot.
Bringing people together
Blanton has turned her grief into something positive, said her friend Lara Feinberg, also the wife of a state trooper.
“I know if she can get up in the morning, I can, too,” Feinberg said. “If she can do something positive, I want to do it with her.”
Blanton said she does OK most days, but Mother’s Day was particularly difficult.
“Last year, I thought I would spend it with my baby and my husband, and this year I don’t have either,” she said.
Having a celebration on Tye’s birthday will help her get through the day.
The Blanton family’s tragedy brought the wives of state troopers closer together, Feinberg said. The board of the Tye Blanton Foundation is composed largely of women whose husbands are troopers.
Sunday’s event will be a chance for people to join the foundation for $10 and a promise to volunteer for three hours during the coming year (the event itself counts).
“Of course, even if you don’t want to volunteer, you can write a check for the foundation,” Feinberg said.
The foundation was started by Blanton and her sister-in-law, Shea Layman.
“I had been wanting to do something even before Tye died,” Layman said. “Tye was in bad shape, but as bad as it was, he had the support of a family and the community, and a lot of babies and their families didn’t.”
They started by collecting items from Haywood County schools: new preemie clothing, new blankets for the babies, gasoline cards, restaurant gift certificates, movie passes and gift cards to Wal-Mart and Target.
“We have to make sure anything for the babies is new,” Blanton said. “They’re so vulnerable to infection.”
Large numbers of outfits and blankets are needed because every time clothing and blankets get wet, they have to be changed.
The items for parents help them to get out and relax a bit, and help them pay for the gasoline to go back and forth.
“When your baby is in the NICU, you want to be there with him, but you need to get out a little bit,” Blanton said. “The food at Mission is fine, but you need to get out of that building.”
Blanton said she also wants to put baskets with full-size shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant and other toiletries in each of the six parent sleepover rooms.
“We’re starting small,” Blanton said. “But I don’t believe we’ll stay that way.”
The Tennessee Department of Safety (TDOS) today named Trooper Kevin Curtis as Trooper of the Year 2007 and Trooper Andy Forsythe as Trooper of the Year 2008. The announcements were made during a special ceremony Friday, May 29, at 10:00 a.m., at the THP Training Center located at 275 Stewarts Ferry Pike in Nashville.
Tulare police Detective Andy Garcia is getting his old partner back.
Retiring from active duty due to an injury he suffered while training, Tigar, a Tulare police dog, was sold to Garcia, the canine’s first and longtime handler. Garcia and Tigar (pronounced “tiger”) were partners for almost three years.
“Wherever I went, he went,” Garcia said.
Tigar, a playful, dutiful German shepherd, joined Tulare’s finest in 2006 and was assigned to Garcia, then working in the patrol division.
“Other officers ride solo,” he said. “He was my partner.”
Garcia said the two attended an intensive, five-week training session in Southern California, where partnership bonds were created. At the time he was bought, Tigar was about 18 months old.
“We learned to work together as a team,” Garcia said.
Trained in the Netherlands, Tigar understood commands in Dutch, requiring Garcia to pick up some of the language. That’s usual practice as police departments prefer that officers learn commands in the language in which the dog was trained to prevent other people, including suspects, from giving the dog orders, creating confusion for the animal.
Garcia and Tigar were requested when searches for drugs or people were needed; in reports of missing people; when suspects were barricaded; and tight-fitting spots needed to be checked.
Having Tigar around provided an additional safety layer, Garcia said.
Outside police work, Tigar also participated in demonstrations, a natural crowd-pleaser.
“He served the city well,” Garcia said.
Unlike most other partners, Garcia and Tigar remained together after work was done. And even during off days, the partnership remained.
Garcia said he took Tigar to the veterinarian, performed additional training and took care of the canine, feeding him and giving him a bath.
“He loved to play,” Garcia said. “He loved to go to work.”
The two remained together until 2008, when Garcia was promoted to his current position as detective in the department’s Investigation Unit.
Yes, it was a promotion, but it wasn’t easy to adjust to flying solo.
“It was hard,” he said.
Tigar was then assigned to patrol Officer Tim Sunderland, who became the dog’s second handler. Their partnership lasted almost a year.
“You get used to having [him] in the back seat,” Sunderland said.
Unfortunately, Tigar was injured while training. He underwent surgery, but was unable to recover fully. It was determined it was better for Tigar to retire and become a family dog.
Garcia was approached about Tigar because the detective was partnered with the dog longer. He said his two children are looking forward to getting Tigar back.
“It’ll be time to relax,” he said. “It’ll be time to take it easy and be a pet.”