The unit, Patrolman Kyle Riepen says, is 100 percent self-sufficient and relies on the fundraising efforts of the officers and donations received by local businesses.
By KRYSTAL NURSE
The Mantua Township Police Department welcomed its newest K-9 officer, Boomer, a Golden Labrador Retriever, earlier in the month. Following his graduation, he will be used to detect explosive materials and assist in finding missing persons. However, the department could not have done it without the officers’ fundraising efforts and generous donations.
“We try to do a fundraiser every year because, around 2010, we lost funding to our K-9 unit and had to raise money ourselves so the unit can continue to succeed,” said K-9 Officer Ptl. Kyle Riepen. “I loved playing wiffle ball ever since I was a little kid and we work hand-in-hand with Total Turf to showcase our tournament.”
The tournament this year is on Nov. 3.
The fundraiser allowed for Riepen to have the means to have himself and K-9 Officer Kade (retired) remain in the unit, as well as K-9 officers Bane (Riepen’s dog); Zuke, Ptl. Cody Mroz’s dog; and Bill Donovan, who will be paired with Boomer. To this day, they have averaged about $7,000 to $10,000 per year in funds.
Now, Riepen has officers in the K-9 unit go out and fundraise for the unit to help pay for the first year’s expenses because “from day one when we receive a dog until the last day it takes its last breath, we pay for the dog.”
The K-9 unit not only has a wiffle ball tournament, but also coordinates VIP dances with the Mantua Township elementary schools to raise money for both the unit and the school. Local businesses have also given generous donations.
Police Chief Darren White created a GofundMe page after Lt. Brian Grady presented the idea. The campaign is about $500 shy of its $2,500 goal.
Each dog costs roughly $10,000 after the regular health care of the dogs, as well as specialized canine training at the John “Sonny” Burke K-9 academy in Atlantic County. Boomer will be there for around 10 to 12 weeks in specialized training and returns to the department for in-service training.
“He’s going to learn 36 odors, which is more than our narcotics dogs, who learn seven,” said Riepen. “It’s about eight to 10 hours a day, five days a week.”
Riepen noted it is highly likely that Boomer will retain his friendly demeanor as he will not go through patrol training for him to be able to smell and alert his handler of any explosive materials.
Upon graduating from the academy, Boomer will be stationed throughout the schools in the Mantua Township School District on various days and be able to smell if someone has ammunition on them or anything that contains explosive materials. He will also accompany his handler throughout the township.
“When we go somewhere, such as a supermarket or a school, kids don’t necessarily remember me, but they’re like ‘you’re the guy that has Kade or Bane,’” said Riepen. “Amongst everything else they do, they’re a big public relations tool because they link the department with the community.”
The dogs in the K-9 unit have helped officers find missing persons who were in danger, senior citizens and kids who wandered off away from their home. Riepen hopes the department can one day have a dog paired with every officer for day-to-day protection. He himself has had only one Use of Force report (when a suspect want to be combative with an officer) since having a dog in a eight-year span.
“When a dog shows up, people don’t want to engage and they back down — and that’s just what we hear from what they tell us,” said Riepen.
Boomer, and other canines, will be at the township’s Bark in the Park event on Oct. 6 for a demonstration around 10:30 a.m. and will meet with families and familiarize everyone with the unit’s newest addition. The wiffle ball tournament, on Nov. 3, requires registration for participants that can be done at www.TotalTurf.com. Two tournaments will take place.
“If we could have a dog on every shift, we could, but it comes as the result of successful fundraising campaigns,” said Riepen. “I’d like Donovan do a tremendous job with the explosive dog and be able to get another single-purpose dog to put in the schools.”
Updates on Boomer’s timeline in the academy and further fundraising efforts done by the police department can be found on its Facebook page.