Fayner Posts: I was actually laughing when reading this just because I was stuck thinking how no one now is gonna know the difference between a police dog and the latest rap star ’cause they’ll both be sportin’ bulletproof vests. The only difference is that I’d truly feel sorry if one of these dogs died protecting its partner – like did happen last year – and not at all if 50 Cent got gunned down.
More and more US police dogs are enjoying similar protection as their human partners in fighting crime.
The latest group are the dogs of one Southern California town who will be strutting the streets this week with the new bulletproof vests.
Prompted by the shooting death of a local police dog last year, an anonymous donor in the city of Glendale, 16 kilometers (10 miles) north of Los Angeles, gave funds to bulletproof the four dogs of his community’s K-9 unit.
"People tend to think that the police and the military use dogs as something expendable, but we don’t believe that at all," Sargeant Tom Lorenz of the Glendale Police Department told AFP.
Police dogs are trained for narcotics investigations, search and rescue, explosive detection, and to track and catch suspects.
"Our dogs increase our efficiency," said Lorenz. "They save us countless man hours in search situations where we can send in one of our dogs with their keen sense of smell."
Last week, one of the Glendale dogs’ sharp nose sniffed out half a million dollars of opium during a routine traffic stop. The 21-month-old German Shepherd named "Yudy" was hailed with the biggest opium bust ever in the city.
At a time when police departments across the United States are experiencing increasing difficulty wooing new recruits into careers in law enforcement, trained dogs are valuable tools.
"We are all hurting for recruitment, we all would like more police officers, but the dogs definitely make things easier, and they will all be equipped with kevlar protection," said Lorenz.
Because police budgets are limited, funds for canine units often come from private citizens and community groups. Concerned citizens in Glendale have raised 96,000 dollars for the crime fighting dogs.
The money will be used to feed and care for the dogs, as well as outfit the patrol cars with specialized air conditioning units, said Lorenz.
"We are lucky to have a community that supports its police force," he added. "Many urban communities don’t want dogs on the street, but here they are buying us the dogs."
Ron Lieberman of Black Armor, a Southern California based manufacturer of kevlar protective gear, has made contracts with a dozen police forces in the United States.
"Sales of dog vests have been steady in the last few years," Lieberman told AFP. "The animals normally get the lowest priority on the budget, so most of our sales are through concerned school groups and private citizens."
According to the North American Police Dog Association, only about 10 percent of US police canine units have the budget to buy bulletproof dog vests.
In 1999, Stephanie Taylor, an eleven-year-old from Oceanside, California began a campaign to outfit police dogs with protective gear after she heard of the shooting of a dog in the line of duty.
Through donations and fundraisers, her group called "Vest-A-Dog" has suited over a thousand police dogs across the country.
But law enforcement analyst Charlie Mesloh believes that these canine unit shooting deaths are rare, and may have given rise to an irrational bulletproofing phenomena.
"These incidents tapped into the emotional reservoir of a nation," he wrote in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. He cautioned that there is no research on how effective these vests are, and no reports of the armor actually having saved a dog.
But the four German Shepherds of the Glendale police department today join the legions of lucky law enforcement dogs that have been elevated to armored status.
"They are members of the police family and also viewed in the same context as the officers," Glendale Police canine unit commander Rodney S. Brooks.
"They come to work and spend a full day in the field, they have responsibilities, they take, risks, just like their human counterparts."