KPD receives donation for new K-9

Erica Crist

A donation of $4,000 from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3703 to the Kent Police Department for the purchase of a new K-9 was approved by City Council on Wednesday.

This K-9 will replace the Kent Police Department’s newest dog, Bak, which died unexpectedly from an infection, according to Capt. Michelle Lee, Kent Police K-9 supervisor. Lee said the police department has maintained three K-9’s for several years, but a tight budget has left them working with two since August.

VFW Commander James White said he decided to donate to the department as soon as he heard about Bak’s death.

“It’s our first time donating to the police department,” White said. “I read that they didn’t have the money for another dog. I called them up that day and offered the donation.”

Councilwoman Beth Oswitch said she thanks the VFW for filling this void.

“The citizens are lucky to have them be so gracious to donate this,” she said.

The initial purchase of a dog ranges from $3,000 to $5,000, but the cost of continuing care is an ever-growing fee each month, according to Lee. Money that the Kent Police Department receives from the state government through grants may not be available for new K-9’s, so the department reaches out to the city and the tax payers for its funding, she said.

“Generally, money from the state is used on needed equipment that is a one-time purchase, whereas a K-9 is an ongoing purchase,” she said.

White said the VFW is regulated through the Ohio Lottery Commission and a certain amount of its profit must go toward charities under the commission’s laws. In the past, the VFW has donated largely to Kent schools, the cemetery and the Salvation Army.

“We’ve always given to the community, even before we had to,” White said. “We give to as many charities as possible, some outside the city of Kent. But you have to give back to the community.”

In addition to the cost of food, housing and veterinary bills, the police department must also pay to train a K-9 handler. Officer Martin Gilliland, Kent Police K-9 administrator and Bak’s former handler, will be handling the new K-9 to avoid this expense.

Lee said because Gilliland has been through the police department’s assessment process before, he will not need to be evaluated as a handler candidate again.

“An officer who wants to be a K-9 handler must be disciplined in their work ethics,” she said. “They must not only be able to do police duties, but also have the mindset that they are responsible for a K-9 dog, which is a great responsibility.”

Gilliland said being a K-9 handler is a very rewarding position, from the personal time he spends with the dog to the work he does at the police department.

Lee said the police department purchases 1- or 2-year-old dogs from overseas through local vendors. Gilliland said the dog they are testing right now is from the Czech Republic being sold through a vender in Wapakoneta. Gilliland said they are testing the dog for compatibility, not only with his 4-year-old son but also with the police department, and they have not formally committed to purchasing it yet.

“Every dog is different and we commit so much time and money to this, so we make sure the dog fits in and that it is the dog we want for this department,” he said. “The dog should have an even temper and be social and approachable by people, as well as have a high drive to do work.”

Although Gilliland won’t need to be trained as a handler, the dog’s training will still be necessary. For the initial training Gilliland will work with the dog for four to six weeks for

certification, he said.

“They gain confidence with each other; they get to know each other,” Lee said. “Sometimes the dogs have received training in a different language or a different climate, so it’s really them getting acclimated to the setting and the handler.”

Once a K-9 has been assigned to an officer, the German Shepard will live at its handler’s house and come to work with the officer, Lee said.

The officer also gets two training days a month to practice with the K-9. Lee said the Kent Police Department handlers usually get together with other Northeast Ohio departments at standardized training facilities for K-9’s to review tracking and drug detecting.

“A dog is like a person, it can be trained to do something but if you’re not proficient in it and you don’t keep at it, then you forget,” she said.

Gilliland explained a training technique where K-9’s are taken to Baker’s Towing on Walnut Street in Kent. The K-9’s track different quantities of narcotics that have been hidden inside and outside of vehicles. The outcomes of both the handlers and the K-9’s are recorded after every training exercise regardless of the outcome, he said.

The Kent Police Department uses K-9’s for drug detection, tracking, whether it’s a fleeing suspect or a missing person, and apprehension, Lee said.

Councilman Garret Ferrara said a letter of thanks and gratitude will be given to the VFW for the donation.

Contact public affairs reporter Erica Crist at [email protected] Public affairs reporter Ally Melling contributed to this story.