Officers Rally In Support Of New London K-9 Program

Mayor has proposed elimination of program in New London Police Department as way of saving money

Several current and former police officers rallied at on Tuesday to protest a proposal to cut the ’s K-9 program.

Mayor Daryl Finizio has suggested the possibility of eliminating the program as one way of reducing the department’s budget. He said the program is not an essential service and that he was concerned with a racial disparity in the data on dog bites.

The Finance Committee ultimately voted to recommend a $12,040,651 budget for the department, a reduction of $240,000. The recommendation includes the elimination of the deputy police chief position but leaves other cuts to the discretion of Police Chief Margaret Ackley.

Elimination proposal

The department has three K-9 units. Two are patrol dogs, with one cross-trained as a search and rescue dog and the other cross-trained as a drug-sniffing dog. The third dog is a bloodhound trained for tracking.

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A fourth K-9 was , former police officer Roger Newton, who resigned from the department following an accusation that he planted drugs on a suspect. Finizio has been criticized for selling the dog for $500 when it was bought with $6,000 raised at a fundraiser held by Michael Buscetto III, a former city councilor, mayoral candidate, and vocal critic of Ackley. Finizio said he considered that the sale was mutually acceptable to all parties and could avoid costly litigation.

Finizio said in a memo on the department’s K-9 program that he included funding for the program until it could be analyzed further, but determined that it was “not a necessity” for the city. He said he consulted with Ackley, as well as the city’s risk manager and law department, in making the recommendation and that elimination of the program would save the city $77,000 with at least $23,000 saved in ancillary costs.

Finizio said he was concerned with data on dog bites, which show that 16 out of 18 dog bites between 2009 and 2011 were on minority suspects. The risk manager told Finizio in a memo that dog bites are not a significant driver of liability claims, but that elimination of the program would “reduce the potential for claim severity.”

The elimination of the program could be temporary for the 2013 fiscal year, and Finizio said the city could evaluate the program and rely on neighboring departments for any K-9 services in the interim. First Selectman Dan Steward of Waterford was critical of this idea. 

"We will continue to back them up, but for us to become their K-9 force, that can't happen," Steward told the Waterford Patch. "Our dogs go on a lot of calls in a month. There's no way I can fulfill the mission of a K-9 officer in New London."

Lynch criticism

Todd Lynch, the K-9 training officer at the department and president of the New London Police Union, said the department receives almost 90 calls a month where K-9s are used. He said the city would remain liable for any incidents involving a K-9 from an outside agency, and that the projected savings from eliminating the department are “extremely blown up.”

Lynch said he also considers the proposal to be vindictive. He has in her individual and municipal capacities charging retaliatory behavior against him for his support of Buscetto.

“It’s sad when politics and vengefulness can become more important than the safety of the public and our police officers,” he said.

Appeals to the committee

Jimmy Cortina, director of the Connecticut Police Work Dog Association, said most police departments are in the process of adding K-9s. He said about a dozen dogs were added in departments across the state in the past year.

“It’s just hard to believe,” said Cortina. “This is one of the most valuable tools that they have, and they want to get rid of it.”

During the public comment section of the Finance Committee meeting, several people also encouraged councilors to retain the program. Ken Edwards, a former member of the New London Police Department, said K-9s are important for the safety of officers and suspects since they are a non-lethal use of force.

“The bottom line is dogs keep officers from doing things that are incredibly risky,” he said.

Grant Plunkett questioned how much the department would save given the costs of contracting out and possibly starting up the program in the future.

“I don’t understand why we hired an investigator and want to cut back public safety,” he said.

Don Wilson, president of the New London Branch of the NAACP, supported elimination of the policy. He said there have been several incidents of excessive force with K-9s and that these have undermined public trust.

“This program, if continued, would just be another means to continue the injustice,” said Wilson.

Wilson said he would also like to see a cost assessment which takes into consideration estimates of legal claims involving dog bites.

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Anita Miller April 25, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Am I to understand that the new Deputy Chief does NOT have a job?
Dirk Langeveld April 25, 2012 at 02:23 AM
I just posted a story on that end of the discussions. The Finance Committee supported the elimination of the deputy chief's position as part of a request to reduce the requested police department increase by $240,000, but the full City Council will have a final say on whether that is approved as part of the FY 2013 budget. The full story is here: http://newlondon.patch.com/articles/finance-committee-supports-elimination-of-deputy-chief
John Lynch April 25, 2012 at 07:55 AM
Are you trying to tell me that now the Police Dog's in New London are racist. Maybe there were more minority dog bites because they are the ones dumb enough to run. Mr. Mayor can you please stop making New London look like a bunch of idiots when I know the are not. Racist dog's give me a break. What will be the next stupid thing to come out of the Mayors mouth. Can't wait.
Jennifer Mitchell April 25, 2012 at 10:50 AM
Alexandra Horowitz, author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know and head of the dog cognition lab at Barnard College, believes that what we call racism in dogs is simply fear of the unknown. “Dogs will respond differently to people who are unfamiliar to them, or smell or look different than those to whom they are accustomed.” So while I sometimes believe that racism in humans could be defined as fear of the unknown, dogs are simply responding instinctively to people who are different than the ones who love and feed and care for them. “I don’t think dogs are uncomfortable with groups of people,” Howowitz continued, “They might notice all sorts of distinctions between individuals—some of which might overlap with the racial or [an]other distinction that we notice.” And neither does Horowitz believe that dogs can “pick up” racism from their owners. “It behooves dogs to be sensitive to what is familiar and known, and to what is unfamiliar and unknown. That, viewed from our anthropomorphic perspective, is often called a lot of things that don’t well represent what it means to the dog.”
MADELINE April 25, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Sue P. April 25, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Hey Charlie did this comment make you feel good? I'm so happy that your family is so perfect.
anthony fernando April 25, 2012 at 02:17 PM
The K-9 Units are the best means of preventative police work, it makes "would be" criminals think twice before committing a crime or runnign form the police. If you eliminate the K-9 force you give all criminals more advantage to commit more crime. Don't add another desk position to the police force and pay for it by eliminating these police dogs and officers' positions!
NewLondonSource April 25, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Has anyone actually looked into the statistics for crime in New London and how much is committed by minorities? Does that statistic echo the statistics on dog bites (i.e., favors minorities)? It's pretty clear Fin-Ackley wants to get rid of the K9 unit for two reasons: 1. As a retaliatory action against Todd Lynch 2. To support hiring a deputy chief while keeping a neutral budget (that's if the numbers quoted by Finizio are even accurate for K9 costs). Either way, another foolish action by the boy mayor.
Thomas Cornick April 25, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Can anyone explain the disparity between what New London spends on it's K9 program vs what Norwich spends? A K9 unit is essential to a modern police force, it keeps both suspects and officers from taking a bullet, the real question is are we getting the full value of our investment.
Sue P. April 25, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Todd Lynch said that it cost closer to $20,000 a year. Finizio and Ackley made up the number of $77,000 as part of their scheme to hurt Todd Lynch. But what I find more disturbing is Ackley wants to start policing the river. How much does a police boat cost? Kind of crazy when this is one of the most protected Rivers in the nation. We have the sub base , the E.B. security Oh and I almost forgot The Coast Guard. There seems to be no common sense in this whole scenario .
lion king April 25, 2012 at 04:53 PM
sue p , nlpd already has a police boat and good cops to run that boat,mostly i only see the boat when sailfest is on. o and the boat dont bite and travel through the shopping center
Jennifer Mitchell April 25, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Why can't they apply for grants to defray the costs? I have found at least 3 that not only have grants for the dogs themselves but also training,equipment..etc.
lion king April 25, 2012 at 04:56 PM
lynch says $20,000year to run the k9 program ,how much is it going to cost for the bite in the shopping center
lion king April 25, 2012 at 05:04 PM
how many times has the nlpd needed a dog and not one k9 is working that shift,and by the time you call one in the perp is long gone ,keep the k9 program only if the union will sign a contract that a dog must be on every shift ,
Debbie April 25, 2012 at 05:16 PM
New London does NOT need a K9 unit within the current budget cycle. Let their handlers purchase them or sell the dogs to another police department. Use former K9 expenses to save taxpayers money and offset the newly hired Deputy Police Chief salary. These dogs are NOT needed in a small New England town or city like New London, Connecticut. Let go of those biting dogs and the entire K9 program.
Jennifer Mitchell April 25, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Would you want a K9 around if ,perhaps, your child was missing? People are focusing on one aspect but there are many uses for the k9 unit
Sue P. April 25, 2012 at 05:24 PM
That's just plain silly! And for the dog bite that is what insurance is for. It's not like the dog handlers are walking around with tigers on the end of a leash. The dogs save cops lives and help find drugs faster. Are you against saving cops lives and busting drug dealers?
Jeff Brown April 25, 2012 at 05:43 PM
It does state at the beginning of the article that Mayor Finizio "suggested the possibility of eliminating the k-9 program" and i thinks it perfectly acceptable to explore all avenues in trying to streamline our budget and make necessary cuts, but that being said i definitely don't agree with this move at all and really don't think it'll happen. As for the racial disparity B.S. i won't even waste my time with that nonsense.
NewLondonSource April 25, 2012 at 05:57 PM
@debbie: So you'd rather pay for two deputy police chiefs (we are still paying Segar) than one K9 unit? Thankfully you are not running our finance dept! Although it's hard to imagine it being any worse than with Jeff smith at the helm.
Stephanie James April 26, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Sue, Why make a budget if you just assume the budget is a lie? How exactly would it serve the Chief's best interest to lie about the dollar amount? It serves Lynch's best interest to lie and say they were inflated because it allows him to argue to keep the program. Get it?
Sue P. April 26, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Stephanie, I do see your point but you really must be able to see the meetings in order to see through the craziness of this budget. The answers to most of the questions are "I don't know and I'll get back to you on that" I wish I could post the meetings so everyone could see how frustrating it must be to the Council. Some of the Dept. heads said that the budget before the council is not close to what they actually submitted. You really must see the meetings to believe it.
Rich Allen April 26, 2012 at 11:09 PM
WOW, Larry.
Rich Allen April 26, 2012 at 11:18 PM
But Larry, would that include her daughter?
Rich Allen April 27, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Hmmm Barbara, your comment was deleted.
Rich Allen April 27, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Yours too Charlie (Larry) Gordon, mouth runs big when it's about everyone else.
Sue P. April 27, 2012 at 02:17 AM
When you speak the truth your comments are usually deleted. Now you all know what a dictator is. I'm sure this comment won't last long.
Rich Allen April 27, 2012 at 02:19 AM
No Sue, they deleted themselves.
Rich Allen April 27, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Funny the Larry I mean Charlie posts were deleted. Like he didn't know we all knew it was him all along. Guess he doesnt know the find your email trick.
Sue P. April 27, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Rich, I have also deleted my comments after finding out something. It seems like we are in a crazy conspiracy movie. It just keeps going. Are you a New Londoner?
Thomas Cornick April 28, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Police dogs do not plant evidence,fabricate testimony ,file law suits,submit union grievances, refer to the Chief as a prom queen,or receive outrageous termination packages and are well trained we need more of these.


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