By Brandi Makuski
Some new protective gear for a Stevens Point police dog has finally arrived.
The SPPD applied for a donation of a new ballistic vest for K9 Barry earlier this year. The vest, which is a bullet- and stab-proof, would otherwise have cost the department about $1,200.
K9 Barry’s vest was sponsored by a fundraiser hosted by Beth Frank, Alaska K9 Center of North Pole, AK, and embroidered with the sentiment “In memory of Becky Fuller.”
Officer J.D. Ballew, Barry’s partner, said the new vest is “just like a regular kevlar vest, similar to what officers wear.”
The vest is guaranteed to last five years, but if it gets used during that time, or if Barry’s career lasts longer than that, Ballew said the company will replace it.
Ballew said he and Barry were keeping busy, despite the ongoing pandemic. The duo recently assisted in tracking suspects who fled from car accidents and are frequently called to search vehicles for drugs.
“I couldn’t even tell you how many deployments he’s had off the top of my head; he’s had quite a few,” Ballew said.
The team also continues making public appearances—most recently, attending a car show in the parking lot of Antique Up on Church St.
“Barry’s really doing very well for us,” he said.
Vested Interest in K9s, Inc., established in 2009, is a 501(c)(3) charity whose mission is to provide bullet and stab protective vests and other assistance to dogs of law enforcement and related agencies throughout the United States. The potentially lifesaving body armor for four-legged K9 officers is U.S. made, custom-fitted, and NIJ certified. Since its inception, the company has provided over 3,867 vests to K9s in all 50 states at a value of $6.9 million, made possible by both private and corporate donations.
The program is open to U.S. dogs that are at least 20 months old, actively employed, and certified with law enforcement or related agencies. There are an estimated 30,000 law enforcement K9s throughout the United States.
K9 Barry is a two-year-old Belgian Malinois from the Netherlands, who started his job with SPPD last December. Barry is a replacement dog for K9 Luna, who died in September of multiple organ failure.
The Stevens Point Police Department installed its K9 unit in April 2018 to help address the city’s rising drug problem. The department’s two dogs are trained in scent tracking meth, crack, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, and in article tracking and suspect apprehension.
The dogs, training, and equipment, cost the department an initial investment of about $50,000, which the department offset with donations. Sentry donated $20,000 to the K9 program last September to help pay for replacing Luna.
Police say the dogs have been a big help in combating crime in the area. Last year, K9 dogs were also used to track down a suspect who stole a car in rural Portage Co. then hid in a 200-acre cornfield, according to the department’s other K9 handler, Officer Austin. “It’s amazing what these dogs can do,” he said.
In November, Austin and his partner, Fala, helped during a search of Comfort Suites during a Thanksgiving Day shooting on the city’s north side.
Ongoing expenses for the program will be paid for with drug forfeitures, along with an anticipated $5,000-$8,000 in annual donations.
The department sells K9 swag to help support the program. Challenge coins, stuffed K9 dogs, and t-shirts are for sale at the records window of the Stevens Point Police Department, 933 Michigan Ave.