New London police K-9 Jasper dead after 11 years of service
New London — On Saturday night, New London police K-9 Jasper reported to work as usual, ready to take on whatever calls the night would bring.
On Sunday, the 11-year-old German shepherd passed away.
"That's the type of dog he was," said Officer Todd Lynch, who was Jasper's handler. "He always wanted to be working."
Lynch, who also trains dogs for the department, said he and Jasper were paired up when Jasper was only 5 months old.
They went on to log about three years together with the state police before coming to New London in 2007, where they spent evenings and nights working to detain fleeing suspects, gather evidence and help find missing people.
On occasion, the duo would leave the state to assist other departments, such as in 2008, when they helped Wisconsin police with a murder investigation, Lynch said.
"People don't realize all the things police dogs do," he said. "They search buildings so officers don't have to put their own lives in jeopardy. They find evidence. They track people — bad people and missing elderly and children."
"They do a lot of things that aren't fighting-related that we'll have to try to get other dogs to do," Lynch continued.
With Jasper's death, the New London Police Department is down to one active police dog: Bessie, a tracking bloodhound.
That's the case despite an ordinance the City Council unanimously passed in 2013 that requires the police department to maintain four police dog teams, Lynch said.
In a Tuesday afternoon email, police Chief Margaret Ackley said she requested to be permitted to add K-9s in order to comply with the ordinance upon returning from administrative leave last year.
Council members last June approved a transfer of $30,000 to establish two additional K-9 units, at which point former Finance Director Jeff Smith asked the chief to hold off on any expenditure until late August or September because of an estimated $500,000 drop in revenues.
According to Ackley, Smith and former Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio never transferred the money.
"With our present staffing level at 70, I do hope the new mayor and new finance director will permit us to soon hire officers to comply with the 80 officer minimum and increase our K9s," Ackley wrote in the email, referring to an ordinance passed in 2014 that requires the department to have at least 80 officers.
Lynch, who said he hasn't met with police administrators to discuss the plan going forward, said it's too soon for him to say whether he'd consider partnering up with another K-9 in the future.
"We've lost a valuable resource," Lynch said. "It's tough — you lose that and you lose your best friend all at once."
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