Long-time city resident Amy Finkel wanted to celebrate the memory of her brother-in-law Robert Camp, a retired Secret Service agent who protected six presidents over his career.
So she decided on the unique tribute of donating $15,000 for the purchase and training of a German Shepherd for the Alpharetta Police K-9 Unit. Matt Peterson, another civic-minded citizen, donated the $4,100 for a ballistic protective vest for the dog.
“Robbie,” named for Finkel’s brother-in-law, joins three other K-9 dogs in the unit. He will be partnered with officer J.C. McDonald.
“The dogs are used to sniff out drugs, tracking and, in extreme cases, apprehension, said police Lt. Dan Dreslinski, who partners with Bak.
At the Dec. 14 City Council meeting, Mayor Arthur Letchas read proclamations communicating the thanks and appreciation of the city to Finkel and Peterson for their generosity.
“By their efforts to make Robbie possible for us, Alpharetta now has one more officer to ensure its residents’ safety,” Letchas said.
Director of Public Safety Gary George congratulated Finkel for replacing a dog that had recently died suddenly.
“This is a wonderful thing she has done,” George said. “This helps us just that much more to do our job protecting the citizens of Alpharetta.”
Finkel said she was glad to be able to do this for the city and to memorialize her brother-in-law.
Nine-year Alpharetta resident Matt Peterson’s donation of a bullet-resistant vest for Robbie was much appreciated by the Police Department as well. The officers bond with their dogs, and they want the same protection for their four-footed comrades that they wear.
“I’m glad to be able to help out,” Peterson said. “I understand what these dogs do for us.”
By Hatcher Hurd
Over the past seven years, he has helped track down some 50 bad guys — five of them armed — without any protective gear.
But now, thanks to a charitable 13-year-old and her friends, the sheriff’s 8-year-old K-9 dog won’t have to fight crime unprotected anymore.
This morning, Harrisburg Middle School seventh-grader Mikaela Lewis presented the Boone County Sheriff’s Department with a check for $660 for the purchase of a bulletproof vest for Utz, a German shepherd.
She and a group of friends who call themselves the “Smile Givers” raised the money last year through donations and a bake sale. Sheriff Dwayne Carey and Cpl. Chris Smith — Utz’s handler — joined other deputies to visit and thank the students and present them with certificates of appreciation.
“This warms my heart,” Carey said during a morning assembly at the school. “Not to be cheesy, but we just don’t encounter in our line of work kids like the Smile Givers.”
Utz has been Smith’s partner for seven years. In addition to helping track criminals, the dog has aided Smith in finding narcotics. Today, Utz demonstrated his sense of smell by finding a scented card officers hid under a chair. Children screamed as Utz sniffed surrounding chairs first only to place his paw on the chair with the card taped underneath.
But policing isn’t all fun and games for the dogs, Smith told them.
“It can be a little dangerous,” he said. “Now, with your donation, we’ll be able to give him a vest so he has the same protection we do when we’re out fighting bad guys.”
Mikaela said she came up with the idea to raise money for a K-9 vest after reading about the Vest-A-Dog program in a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book. That organization, founded by an 11-year-old in 1999, raises money to provide bulletproof vests for police dogs.
It’s not the first time Mikaela has spent time giving to others. A few years ago, she recruited fellow students to send Valentine’s Day cards to troops overseas. She also has collected books and clothing for Rainbow House.
“Mikaela’s just one of these people who likes to do things to help others,” said Larry French, who retired from Harrisburg Middle School last year after serving 11 years as a counselor.
Mikaela said she enjoys helping out where she can.
“It’s just so much fun to work with your friends and just help others and see people so happy,” she said.
There’s no plan yet to raise funds for a second vest for the department’s other dog, Brix, but one school employee asked Smith whether Utz’s co-K-9 needs one.
“Yes,” Smith said.
The Billings Police Department is honoring a member of its team Wednesday that’s helped get more than a million dollars in drug seizures.
Police Service Dog Bo is a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois imported from Holland. Bo has been trained in both narcotics detection and patrol and has had more than 1,800 deployments. Bo’s been teamed up with Officer Rob Vickery for 5 years. Vickery said the time with Bo has been the best of his career.
“I joke that I spend more time with him than I do my own kids and sometimes that’s the way it is. You know, you work 40 hours a week, he’s in the car with you all that time, it’s a pretty close relationship. You get attached to him,” said Vickery.
Bo is the longest tenured dog with the Billings Police Department, which currently has three K-9 teams.
By Jared Bray
One Midlands K-9 unit is trying to lessen that worry, and they’re hoping you’ll help them. “He’s a leaner, he likes to be right close to me. He’s a Belgian Malanois. He’s a little high-strung, but he’s the old man of the bunch,” says Sgt. Derek Applegate of his dog, Spyro.
Applegate and Spyro have been together since 2002. Their relationship is similar to most canines and their police partners. “Each dog is assigned to a handler and that dog goes home and lives with the handler and his family,” the sergeant explains.
It’s a dangerous job for both man and his best friend. Says Applegate, “A lot of times we have to go into the woods after somebody. A lot of times, we don’t know whether or not the suspect’s armed. Sometimes, we do know he’s armed and we have to go in there.”
But he and the other two-legged deputies have one advantage – a good bulletproof vest. “The dog is to save human life, but we want to protect the dog as much as possible as well,” Applegate says. The few the unit has for the canines now are past their expiration date. To pay for new ones for all six dogs, a concert has been organized to raise money. “The body armor that the dogs wear is very similar, it’s made of the same as what the police officers wear,” he says.
Keeping Spyro safe is vital to Applegate, so that the pooch can continue his work keeping you safe.
The concert, featuring country music artist Doug McCormick, is Thursday, December 17th at Ozzie’s Island Oasis on Charleston Highway in West Columbia. It’s $10 per person, starts at 6 p.m. and all proceeds will benefit the Lexington County Sheriff’s Foundation.
By Sydney Cummins
A K-9 couple has decided to spread a little holiday cheer through The Valley Independent’s annual Christmas gift-giving program.
After seeing an article about struggling local Christmas charity drives, Brian and Tracy Vitale decided to buy gifts for the newspaper’s Christmas Cheer program with some of the money raised for their police dogs.
Brian, 36, has been a Monessen police officer for six years. The city’s K-9 officer since April, he works with a 20-month old Dutch shepherd named Ivo, who came from Holland.
Tracy, 38, a 12-year-veteran who has been with the California Borough Police Department for five years, became the borough’s K-9 officer in June. Her canine partner is Argo, a 17-month-old black German Shepherd from Czechoslovakia.
The husband and wife have staged several fundraisers to help pay for equipment, training, health insurance and other maintenance costs for the dogs.
Tracy Vitale said the events have been so successful that there was some money to spare for needy children in the Mid-Mon Valley.
The couple thought of Christmas Cheer first, since they have been buying gifts for the program for several years.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Tracy Vitale said of the Christmas Cheer program. “We’ve been doing it since our kids were in preschool, probably 15 or 16 years.”
The Vitales showed up recently at The Valley Independent to begin delivering $900 in gifts to Christmas Cheer, which turns over the donated toys to the Salvation Army’s Christmas toy drive for Mid-Mon Valley communities.
Ivo and Argo came along, decked out in Christmas hats and collars.
The visit to the newspaper marked the beginning of a new annual Christmas campaign the Vitales are calling “Christmas with K-9s.”
The two officers plan to set aside proceeds from one of their K-9 fundraising events each year to buy toys for Christmas Cheer.
“The money from the fundraisers has been coming from the California Borough community and the Monessen community,” Tracy Vitale said. “Our police officers, they’re busting their butt, too, helping us raise money. So, this is also the community giving back, as well as the dogs.
“We want to do it every year and maybe try to get some other departments to come aboard with us.”
A local business has donated food for Ivo and Argo and an organization called Kevlar for K-9s recently donated special bulletproof vests for them, Tracy Vitale said.
When not working their beats, the Vitales have taken their dogs into local schools as part of an educational outreach program about K-9 officers and their companions.
For more information, or to make a donation to “Christmas with K-9s,” call Monessen police at (724) 684-4620 or California Borough police at (724) 938-3233.
By Jeff Pikulsky
A realistic SWAT drill that played out at the Boys & Girls Club on Wall Street Wednesday depicted a shooting suspect under arrest, a victim dead from gunshot wounds, and two hostages rescued.
The club was closed until 3 p.m. as Chico police SWAT members assembled just outside a courtyard at Seventh and Wall streets and prepared to end the mock threat posed by a gun-wielding woman.
The scenario called for a carjacking with shots fired at the West Sacramento Avenue Safeway store around 8 a.m.
The suspect, a woman about 40, drove to the Boys & Girls Club with police in pursuit.
She ran into a gymnasium just south of the main club building and took one hostage at gunpoint.
As part of the drill, SWAT members deployed snipers to nearby roofs and set up a mobile communications system to negotiate with the portrayed suspect.
Meanwhile, the script had police learning the victim the suspect carjacked had died of gunshot wounds.
Now dealing with a woman who had committed homicide, police learned during mock negotiations she was willing to “utilize” her hostage, which police took to mean harm or kill.
As the scenario continued, police learned the suspect had discovered a second person hiding in the gymnasium, and now had two hostages.
As the mock threat to the hostages escalated, police said they decided to have SWAT members make a “dynamic entry” into the building as the suspect was talking with negotiators on the phone, and had
temporarily turned her attention away from the hostages.
Sgt. Rob Merrifield said the tactic worked, and the suspect was taken into custody with no shots fired.
Had it been real, the woman would have been charged with an open count of homicide, carjacking, kidnapping, burglary and making terrorist threats.
In addition to giving SWAT members valued experience, the drill also gave police an opportunity to try out a homemade robot crafted by city employee Earl Keene.
The Plexiglas-top robot employs two mounted cameras that can survey a crime scene and transmit video back to a laptop.
Keene built the robot himself, using an old wheelchair for a chassis.
He said the cost, which he covered, was about $9,000.
Commercially built robots, which also have the capability of helping to dispose of explosives, can cost up to $150,000.
Police said the drill was a success.
Youngsters were allowed back into the club at 3 p.m. and were given a briefing on the drill from police.
Officers said the drill was particularly timely in light of a bank standoff with hostages taken in Burney on Tuesday.
By Greg Welter
Very cute, guys. Great job!