Two weeks ago, Aftermath’s Senior Manager of Law Enforcement Relations, John Tyler, presented the Larksville Police Department with a $500 grant as 4th place winners in the company’s 5th Annual K9 Grant Competition. Over 3,000 police departments were nominated and over 152,000 votes were received during the contest, which ran from September 30th until October 31st.
The 2016 Aftermath K9 Grant included winning agencies in New Mexico, Illinois, and New York. Over the past month, we’ve been showcasing these heroes to find out what makes them so important to their communities. Today, we share our interview with Chief Edwards of the Larksville Police Department in Pennsylvania, home to K9 Officer Una.
Living in Larksville
Larksville is a small town, with a population of approximately 5,000. Neighboring towns are similar in size, which means that they often share resources – including the services of K9 Officer Una. The K9 unit project was originally spearheaded by Larksville resident Donna Michak. Thanks to Michak’s fundraising efforts and the generosity of the local community, Officer Una joined the force three years ago. The town was also able to purchase a custom squad car to safely transport the K9, as well as specialized equipment and routine care.
On most weekdays, Una and her handler, Officer Josh Evans, are stationed at the local high school. They also perform traffic searches, narcotics busts, and bomb sniffing duties. “It’s amazing how she was trained. Alan (Alan Finn of Designing Dogs is Una’s trainer) created a K9. She is like any of us – Una is trained to be a police dog when Josh tells her to be a police dog, but when she’s off duty, she’s just like any other dog. She is aggressive when she needs to be, but gentle and good mannered all other times.”
One thing that separates Una from other police dogs is that Una enjoys being petted. She is also multilingual; she understands her commands in German, French, and English. With all this, it’s easy to understand how this calm K9 became a bit of a celebrity in the Larksville area. In fact, it was her popularity with the community that helped her take 4th place in the K9 Grant competition, gathering more votes than thousands of larger police departments nationwide.
A Little Help From Friends
Chief Edwards credits social media, particularly Facebook, with playing a big role in Una’s success.“Social media was a big driving force behind our win,” Chief Edwards said. “We were one of the first departments in this region to start a Facebook page. Our k9 unit also services neighboring towns, so they supported us.” This was the city’s first year participating in the Aftermath K9 Grant competition.
Winning the Aftermath grant has been a boon to the department. Community donations are the prime source of funding for the Larksville K9 unit. “We started the K9 department with donations and we have been so fortunate to have the support of our community,” Chief Edwards stated. “Their contributions enabled us to buy a custom police vehicle and everything that goes into equipping a K9 Unit. There are so many expenses when you start, as well as ongoing costs.”
While donations continue, this year brought the small department a few extra challenges: a local store owner who had hosted auction benefits for the unit in years past moved out of the area. Though much of Una’s medical care is seen to by donations, Chief Edwards states that the $500 Aftermath K9 Grant will go toward providing for the K9’s basic needs, including special food and regular grooming.
The Benefits of a K9 Unit
The benefits of having a K9 on staff are many. In her three plus years on the force, Una has been instrumental in numerous suspect apprehensions, drug busts, and other situations. Not only does she help save the department man hours, but she can perform tasks that are difficult or even impossible for her human counterparts.
In one case, a home invasion occurred in a nearby town. The perpetrators wound up hiding in an apartment building. Una tracked them, eventually locating the criminals hiding in the floorboards in the basement. Another one of Una’s success stories involves a shooting. One of the gunmen took off his sweatshirt and dumped it in a cemetery. Una used the scent from sweatshirt to follow the suspect’s trace through cemetery and over a fence into a nearby housing development – right to their front door!
Outside of her professional duties, Una’s greatest achievement is fostering a sense of comradery among her fellow officers as well as creating a bridge between the agency and the Larksville community. Chief Edwards related: “Having a K9 unit has brought us closer together and the results have been a more effective police department. The K9 grant has continued to push that message; we now have even more people on our side.”
About Aftermath Services LLC.
As the nation’s largest dedicated crime scene cleanup company, Aftermath Services LLC proudly recognizes the contributions made by K9 officers and their partners. The annual K9 Grant is just one aspect of the Aftermath Cares program, aimed at acknowledging first responders for their ongoing efforts to protect and improve their communities. For more information on trauma cleaning services, or to learn more about the relationship between Aftermath and law enforcement, call 877-872-4339 or visit www.aftermath.com.