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Tinley Park Police raised nearly $6,000 for Special Olympics during its Cop on Top fundraising event at two Tinley Park Dunkin’ Donuts Friday.
“We certainly surpassed my expectations,” said event organizer Sgt. Bill Devine.
From about 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., police officers climbed on the roofs of the Dunkin’ Donuts locations at 7935 W. 171st St. and 9510 179th St. to participate in the annual fundraiser for Special Olympics Illinois. Playing off of the familiar cops and donuts joke, Devine said about 120 locations participated in the event throughout the state this year.
“All in all it was very successful,” he said.
City may lay off 4-legged officers
South Carolina’s pervasive economic downturn is threatening what was once one of the safest jobs in Columbia: being a police dog or a police horse.
About 16 police animals — 13 dogs and three horses — could be laid off by July 1 as the Columbia Police Department struggles to make its budget.
The department overspent its 2008 budget by $4 million and is already $2 million over budget for this fiscal year, which ends in June. With city revenues expected to fall $4 million next year, Chief Tandy Carter — hired last May — is proposing to cut funding for the department’s K-9 and mounted patrol units.
The department spends about $75,000 a year on horses and about $35,000 a year on dogs, according to Capt. Isa Green, who oversees the two units. That includes food, veterinary bills and shelter. It does not include salaries and benefits for the human officers who work with the animals; they would not be laid off.
If the funds are cut, the dogs would most likely stay with the police officers as pets, Carter said. The horses would probably be donated to other agencies.
City Council members, while they do not prepare the budget, have final say on what’s in the budget. Contacted last week, a majority of council members said they do not support eliminating the K-9 unit, but would support doing away with the horses.
The dogs are trained in tracking human scent and identifying hidden drugs. They also sometimes are simply intimidating: Suspects who might not be frightened of an officer can freeze in their tracks at the sight of the dogs.
Sgt. Andre Williams, who oversees the K-9 unit, estimates the dogs are called to duty about twice a week. The officers who handle the dogs are spread throughout the city’s four police regions but can go wherever they’re needed.
The mounted patrol mainly works the city’s parks, including downtown’s large Finlay Park. Carter said they serve as a public-relations tool more than anything else, which is why council members are more agreeable to cutting their funding.
“The mounted patrol to me is really ceremonial,” Councilman Daniel Rickenmann said.
The department has 13 dogs — Dottie, Jinx, Meca, Zena, Cole, Zeus, Max, Max (no relation), Zoro, Blue, Josephine, Jazzy and Bobo.
The mounted patrol had five horses, but two — Shiloh and Beorn — were killed in a 2007 car wreck. That left three horses — Harvey, a thoroughbred, and Brinx and Trouble, both quarter horses.
It was not clear if the department acquired more horses after 2007. Officials with the mounted patrol unit could not be reached for comment last week.
Police officers, by the nature of their dangerous jobs, have a special bond with each other — and the same is true of police animals.
When Shiloh and Beorn were killed in 2007, the department held a memorial service for them at Finlay Park that had a 32-horse procession from departments in Raleigh, Wilmington and Savannah, among others.
With police dogs, that bond is even closer. Columbia officers assigned to the K-9 unit keep the dogs at their homes when they are off duty.
Blue, a 13-year-old German Shepherd, was purchased from a breeder in The Netherlands and has been with Williams for his entire career.
“That’s my son,” Williams said. “I don’t have a boy. I have two girls, and Blue is my son.”
Zeus and Zena are brother and sister. So are Zoro and Dottie. Meca was donated from the Greer Police Department, while Josephine, the department’s lone bloodhound, was rescued from the side of the road.
To Carter, something has to give: It’s cut men or cut animals.
But several council members said Carter has options other than eliminating the K-9 unit, such as reducing the department’s overtime budget.
“I just don’t feel like the police department has been good stewards of the money they have been given,” Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine said.
Devine pointed to Woodcreek Farms, a subdivision off Clemson Road in Northeast Richland, at the farthest reaches of the city. The department does not assign officers to that area, but instead uses overtime to make sure it is patrolled.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Devine said. “You know it’s part of the city; you know the city has to do patrols out there.”
But Carter said when City Council members annexed Woodcreek Farms into the city, they did not give the police department more money or more officers to patrol the extra space.
“I think it’s a very good use of overtime,” Carter said. “Right now crime is down 10 percent. Crime would not be down 10 percent if we weren’t able to spread the resources.”