The UConn Police Department K9 Unit just received a $950 dollar ballistic vest for Harper, their 2-year-old German Shepard. Michelle Goodwin of Bristol, Connecticut made a substantial donation to Vested Interest in K9s, Inc., a non-for-profit organization devised to support the working dogs of various law enforcement agencies around the United States. In turn, the charity facilitated procurement of the vest through a police supply company based in Massachusetts. The vest came with a five-year warranty and custom embroidery that reads, “This gift of protection provided by Vested Interest in K9’s, Inc.”
Deputy Chief Hans Rhynhart explains the vest’s value to the department.
“We’re very happy to get the donation for our dog. Our K9 unit is an integral component to our department, and the vest helps our K9 stay safe and protected when he’s on the job,” Rhynhart said.
The streamlined vest comes equipped with utilities to aid officers during patrol and protect Harper. Dual-purpose armor inserts protects the K9’s vital organs from bullet and knife attacks, a greatly appreciated feature for any dog on active duty. The vest also comes equipped with a crowd control handle and built-in rings to support different leads, negating the need for a separate leash and collar.
Although expensive, Harper has already demonstrated need for the added protection. The K9 officer has been dispatched to track individuals on and off campus, and in one memorable incident, was called to assist other officers during a confrontation with a knife-wielding individual.
Harper and his handler, Officer Michael Rhodes, attended a challenging 15-week K-9 training program at the Connecticut State Police Academy in June 2014 to hone their skills together. Harper is certified in obedience, tracking, evidence recovery, building searches, and criminal apprehension.
“Not everyone passes the course,” explained Rhynhart. “Sometimes the dog fails out. Sometimes the officer decides to drop from the program. The officer has to be fully committed to work with a K9. The unit trains every month and the dog lives with the handler’s family. It’s a 24/7 job.”
If a high level of commitment is necessary for an effective K9 unit, UConn’s program is in good hands. According to Rhynhart, Rhodes, a sergeant at the time, took a demotion in order to attend the academy.