New London mayor vetoes City Council's police dog ordinance

New London — The mayor vetoed a City Council ordinance Thursday that would have required the police department to have four K-9 teams, but said he would work with the police union to create a two-dog K-9 unit.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said the ordinance passed by the City Council Aug. 5 violates the City Charter and is an attempt to micromanage the police department. In a three-page explanation of the veto submitted to the City Clerk Thursday afternoon, Finizio also said the ordinance is an unfunded mandate that the city cannot afford, and it interferes with collective bargaining with the police union.

But in an effort to move forward, after speaking with police department administration, Finizio said, he felt there was enough money in the budget for two dogs.

"Although, I maintain the view that even these resources could be better used on other law enforcement needs, I believe that the views of the Council and the union should be respected in an attempt to reach a reasonable compromise to allow our city to move beyond this debate,'' Finizio said in the explanation.

"If the veto of this Ordinance is sustained, I certify I will seek language in the new contract that expands the minimum K-9 requirement from one to two active units,'' Finizio said in a prepared statement. "This will double the existing contractual mandate for a K-9 program."

Jane Glover, the city's chief administrative officer, and police Deputy Chief Peter Reichard, also objected to the ordinance. Glover echoed Finizio's reasons. Reichard added that the department cannot afford four K-9 units. The estimated cost to maintain three dogs is nearly $69,000 a year, he said.

"... based on the current financial state of the department and the level of crime observed ... increasing the size of the canine unit was not feasible and in its present state the current unit does not provide an adequate service to the City of New London,'' Reichard wrote in an Aug. 12 memo to the mayor.

The council fought against the reduction of the K-9 unit in last year's budget, only to see the unit reduced this year to one dog. The mayor has made no secret of his disapproval of the patrol dogs, citing past complaints from bite victims.

Earlier this year, Finizio retired Bessie, a bloodhound that had been used for tracking, after her handler took a job with the state police. He also retired Buck, a patrol dog cross-trained in narcotics detection, for medical reasons. Finizio has since agreed to bring back Bessie, who has been in a kennel in Norwich for the past two months. Bessie is trained to track trace scents for extended period of times.

The other K-9 in the department is Jasper, a German shepherd assigned to Officer Todd Lynch, who is certified as a police dog trainer and is head of the department's K-9 unit. Jasper is trained in tracking, handler protection, deterrence and evidence recovery.

In response to public pressure, after the mayor announced that the department was going to have only the one K-9 unit required by the police union contract, the council passed the ordinance requiring four dogs. It previously had passed a non-binding resolution recommending the police have four K-9 units.

The ordinance was approved unanimously at the council's Aug. 5 meeting, despite an opinion from the city attorney that it violated Sections 40 and 37 of the City Charter.

Attorney Jeffrey T. Londregan wrote that the proposed ordinance was an attempt to dictate how the police department operates and what assets it must maintain. Under the charter, the mayor, who is the chief executive of the city, controls the police department. The council cannot "dictate, or attempt to dictate" the way the mayor manages the city and its staff, Londregan wrote.

A motion to override the veto will be discussed at a City Council meeting Monday. The council needs six out of seven votes to override a veto.

While the vote on the ordinance was unanimous, two councilors, Wade A. Hyslop Jr. and Donald Macrino, said last week they would not support a veto override.


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