On November 4th, Aftermath proudly announced this year’s winners of the 2016 K9 Grant Competition. Hundreds of police departments were nominated and over 152,000 votes were received during the month-long event. At the tail end, 5 departments emerged as clear leaders of the pack. Last week, we shared the story of our Grand Prize winner, Alamogordo Police Department of Alamogordo, NM. Today we hear from Lieutenant O’Hara of the Johnson City Police Department in New York. Read on to learn more about K9 Officers Cruz and Anouk and their fantastic team:
Meet the Johnson City K9 Unit
Though it’s called Johnson City, the name is a misnomer. With a population of just 15,000, Johnson City is actually a village, located within the town of Union, New York. However, due to its location and a large commercial industry, Johnson City swells to almost triple its size during the workweek. This keeps the Johnson City Police Department’s 35 officers and two K9s, Anouk and Cruz, very busy.
Johnson City’s Lt. O’Hara heard of the Aftermath K9 grant in 2015, but this was the first year the department participated. “I periodically do searches for grants,” O’Hara explained. “Last year, I found it while it was going on, but didn’t have a chance to promote because it was too late into the contest to really get started. I put a reminder on my calendar for this year.” When Johnson City decided to get involved in the grant process, they posted to Facebook seeking votes. “When the competition opened, I put an announcement on our Facebook thinking we had no chance, but we got votes like crazy!”
After weeks in the top 10, Johnson City Police Department took 3rd place in this year’s competition. They share the winner’s circle with departments from New Mexico, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Aftermath’s Senior Manager of Law Enforcement Relations, John Tyler, presented the staff with a $500 grant this Wednesday.
Small Size, Big Challenge
Like several of this year’s winners, Johnson City’s small size means it struggles to keep the K9 unit fully funded. The department receives contributions from local businesses as well as individual donors; a local dog food company donated a years’ worth of dog food to the department. Despite generosity from the community, O’Hara remains apprehensive: “We were very fortunate this year to have a small pool of donated funds. But we don’t want to spend it all because we don’t know when we’ll get funding like this again.”
Despite the department’s size and limited budget, Johnson City is no stranger to having a K9 unit. Since the 1980s, the department has had several working dogs, but Lt. O’Hara says it can be difficult finding officers who have the passion to train, maintain, and work with a K9. Luckily, Johnson City has Patrolmen Nicholas Crandall and Daniel Gavin.
Officer Crandall works with Cruz, a Dutch Shepherd and the senior member of the team. Anouk, a rookie at one-and-a-half years old, is a German Shepherd and is partnered with Officer Gavin. The dogs are used to conduct searches of buildings, wooded areas and other places where criminal suspects or missing persons may be located. They are also able to detect narcotics, assist with crowd control, and retrieve evidence.
The $500 K9 grant from Aftermath will be put toward buying much needed training tools for Anouk and Cruz. Lt. O’Hara explains: “Our unit is bare bones. We share equipment with other local K9 units, but it’s old and outdated. The primary use (of the grant) will be for buying rubber arms for bite training. The bite sleeve is good, but the dog gets used to it and we don’t want the dog to always associate the sleeve with the bite. The rubber arm is much closer to what the dog will actually experience, so it will provide more realistic training.”
Community and Partnership
Lt. O’Hara and the Johnson City PD have never been asked, “what do I do next?” but O’Hara says that he hopes others in community are helping families find services like Aftermath. Through programs, sponsorships, and events like the K9 Grant, Aftermath is spreading the word about the importance of professional trauma cleanup and biohazard remediation. It is also one more way we can thank those who do so much for our communities.
To learn more about our services or our relationship with law enforcement, visit our website.