Franklin — Franklin's K9 cops are the extra eyes, ears, noses and officers when a problem pops up.
Trained in drug detection, control tactics, and even to defend their human officer counterpart when necessary, these dogs can provide priceless assistance to the police force, officials say.
However, the price for acquiring and training these dogs (and their handlers) totals around $20,000, including related equipment such as a dog-sized bulletproof vest and squad car adjustments.
Last year, the Franklin Police Citizen Academy Alumni Association made it a mission to raise money for the Franklin Police Department to purchase and train new police dogs. Now, after the unexpected loss of K9 Dagger, who had to be euthanized after facing a serious health issue, and with the department's other two K9s (Charlie and Degan) reaching the age for retirement, the fundraising is needed more than ever as the department begins the process of replacing all three dogs.
Their role in police work locally is substantial, officials say.
"We utilize the K9s on approximately 200 incident per year," Franklin Police Capt. Joseph Spak said. "This involves uses from searching buildings and other areas for criminal suspects, performing searches for controlled substances, apprehension of fleeing suspects, (as well as) performing demonstrations at public events."
Because the K9s do the same things as human officers, they benefit the community in the same way. In some cases, they can do even more.
For example, during a burglary investigation, Dagger was used to conduct an evidence search in the heavily wooded area at Wehr Nature Center. During his search, he found a safe taken during the burglary. The safe contained a loaded handgun.
K9s have also been able to locate valuable evidence, a stolen purse, and even suspects hiding from the police.
"They're like a second officer," said Ann Adamski, who is a part of the Franklin Police Citizen Academy Alumni Association and one of those working on the fundraising project. "They're not only the eyes and ears of the officer, they can help in tremendous way and do things that the officer can't."
Since these dogs are so valuable, Adamski and the rest of the group determined to make sure they get replaced.
Toy K9 sales
To raise money, the group has been selling stuffed animal versions of Charlie, Degan, and Dagger along with T-shirts and "We Back the Badge" signs.
Though independent from the police department, the citizen's academy alumni group is comprised of people who have taken the FPD's citizen's academy class and seeks to support the department through fundraising, volunteering and other safety efforts, like a children's identification program.
So far, Adamski says they're halfway toward their goal of raising enough money to fully cover one new K9, and they are hoping to ramp up fundraising to reach their goal before spring, when Charlie and Degan are set to hang up their badges and go home to live with their officer companions.
With around $8,000 worth of stuffed animal K9s and shirts, Adamski said if they sell the rest of their supply, they will easily have reached their goal.
In addition to continually selling the stuffed animals at $20 a piece, shirts for $25, and signs for $10, the group is also hoping to start a letter-writing campaign to get businesses in the city to donate.
Most people, Adamski says, are more than willing to donate.
"All you have to say is they're for the K9s," Adamski said. "And they say, 'You had me at the puppy.' That's it."
Purchasing new K9s is not a part of the normal police department operating budget, so this financial assistance is welcomed by police.
"The citizens academy group did graciously take it upon themselves to do fundraising to fund one-third of the K9s we'll be replacing," Spak said. "By this organization going out and fundraising, it obviously makes it easier for us to replace all three."
Additional funding may come from the city to purchase the other two dogs.
Franklin residents interested in donating or making a purchase to go toward a new K9 can visit the citizen's academy alumni group's Facebook page to see where they will be selling or contact the group to make a purchase or donation.