Greendale - It's not every day a police department looks for financial assistance from its community to keep a member of the force on active duty.
But the village wants to add a four-legged member as it establishes its first K9 unit. More than likely, it will be a Belgian malinois of up to 2 years old.
Officer Tony Fitzgerald, in his 12th year on the village's force, will be the handler.
The village has created a tax-deductible donation account and is actively fundraising to meet the ongoing costs of having a K9 unit.
The $14,800 in upfront costs - for the dog, a bullet-resistant K9 vest and six weeks of officer and dog training - was covered by MECA Wisconsin Police K9 Fund. Badger Fence has donated the outdoor kennel that will be installed at Fitzgerald's home and a lifetime supply of food for the canine is being donated by Wisconsin-based Fromm Dog Food.
Money will be needed throughout the dog's lifetime service, expected to be seven to 10 years, for ongoing training and equipment. In fact, a sustainable way of paying for ongoing costs must be in place, Fitzgerald said, before the unit can be established.
The dog could be purchased and initial training completed as soon as the early part of 2013.
"It's a full commitment," Fitzgerald said, noting the dog will live with him and his family but as a service animal and not a pet. "These animals can do a number of things, including tracking perpetrators or lost people, searching for narcotics and helping in building searches."
Police literature also points out that a canine can provide additional protection to officers and serve to build bonds between officers and youths, civic clubs and other community organizations.
Fitzgerald sees another possible benefit.
"Because we haven't had a K9 unit," he said, "we have had to call other police forces for assistance. It's part of mutual aid, but we cannot return the favor. And sometimes the K9 units are not available to us."
The village's fundraising program is set to take donations through special sponsorships ranging from $500 to $10,000 with varying degrees of recognition. Top donors could receive a sponsor ad, recognition plaque and their name listed on a special display in the Police Department lobby.
Donations of any amount are welcome, Fitzgerald said.
A targeted solicitation letter has been mailed. Those who would like more information may call Lt. Jeff Zainer, the K9 supervisor, at (414) 423-2121.
The department also is holding a combination sale of recovered bicycles, clothing and other items, as well baked goods, Oct. 20 in the village's police garage. Proceeds will support the K9 unit.
sale of abandoned items and a bake sale
beginning at 9 a.m. Oct. 20 and continuing until all items sold
police garage, 5911 W. Grange Ave.
Proceeds will support ongoing costs associated with forming a K9 unit.