Council throws support behind New London police K-9 unit

New London - If the city doesn't have a place in its police department for Bessie the bloodhound, maybe another department does.

The police administration is putting together a "Request for Proposals" for Bessie, who is on her way to retirement after her handler left New London to work for another police department.

If there is interest in buying Bessie for more than $1,000, the City Council would have to approve the sale. This would be a way for the council, which wants to keep the dogs, to stop the mayor's office from reducing the K-9 unit to only one dog.

The revelation about selling the police K-9 rather than retiring the dog, came Monday night as the council unanimously passed a resolution urging the administration to maintain at least four K-9 units in the department, including Bessie, and Buck, a German shepherd.

Last month Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced that Buck, who has arthritis, was to retire, and Bessie would be donated to another department. That would have left the department with one police dog.

But residents objected to the move by the mayor and asked the council to intervene. The council's Public Safety Committee recommended the council support the police department's K-9 unit.

Council President Michael Passero proposed the non-binding resolution Monday that supports a K-9 unit in the police department with at least four dogs. The resolution specifically names Bessie and Buck.

"This sends a clear message so they know were the council stands,'' Passero said.

Councilor John Maynard, while voting for the resolution, tried but failed to get enough votes to pass an ordinance, which would in effect make having a K-9 unit in the city a law.

"The resolution has no strength,'' he said, in his unsuccessful argument to the other councilors. "The mayor doesn't go by the (city) charter, I don't know why he would listen to a resolution."

The council unanimously agreed that it would pass an ordinance at a later date, if the resolution is ignored.

In 2012, the city allowed a disgraced police officer to resign and as part of the settlement agreement, the officer had the option to buy his trained police dog for $500. At the time, the police union said a trained police dog could be worth up to $10,000.

Last week, Finizio defended his decision to maintain only one police dog, as required in the police union contract.

"We have not eliminated the K-9 program and are not eliminating the K-9 program,'' he said. "We reduced it because the two dogs in questions - one dog handler left the department and other dog had a serious health condition and it was determined it was better for the dog to retire."

Finizio said he is philosophically opposed to "biting dogs" being used for police intimidation.


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