New London police dog will be getting new handler

New London - Officer Jeffrey Nichols has been paired with Bessie the bloodhound, volunteering to become the K-9's new handler after her original handler left the New London police department this summer.

Nichols is a six-year veteran of the department and is assigned to the patrol division. He is expected to begin training with Bessie this week, according to the police department's Facebook page. Bessie will be the second active police dog for the department, following an ordinance passed by the City Council in August that requires the department to have four police dog units.

Two councilors want Buck back on duty

On Monday, two city councilors held a press conference to say they are requesting the mayor reinstate Buck, a New London K-9 that the mayor retired in June for medical reasons. Michael Buscetto Jr., the father of the former city councilor and mayoral candidate, also reiterated that he would donate money to buy a fourth dog for the department. He announced at a City Council meeting last summer that he would buy the dog.

City Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran presented a letter from a veterinarian from the Waterford Animal Hospital who said that if Buck receives arthritis medicine and joint supplements, he should be able to do police work.

"As long as he has his arthritis medicine he can work,'' said Friess-McSparran, who was joined by Councilor John Maynard at Goldy's restaurant. Maynard is chairman of the public safety committee. Friess-McSparran, also a member of the committee, is running for re-election and held a fundraiser at Goldy's last week.

"He has three to five years of active life left on him," Dr. Rakesh Agrawal wrote in a letter to Friess-McSparran.

She said about $3,000 has been raised for Buck's medication, which costs about $720 a year. She expects to send an email to Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio Monday night requesting Buck be reinstated.

In June, Finizio reduced the K-9 unit from three dogs to one. The police union contract requires at least one dog. Buck was retired for medical reasons and Bessie retired because her handler took a new job. That left one dog in the department, Jasper, who is paired with Officer Todd Lynch, the department's K-9 training officer and president of the police union.

At the time, the union objected to the reduction in K-9s. Lynch said Buck's retirement was unnecessary and that union had received thousands of dollars in donations to help pay for Buck's medication.

Deputy Chief Peter Reichard said Monday he was not aware of any press conference concerning the police K-9s.

Friess-McSparran said she held a press conference rather than discussing the issue at a committee or council meeting because she did not want to be "stifled" and "there is a lot of misinformation out there and I wanted to make sure the correct information got out."

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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