LEE COUNTY — It’s amazing the great things that can be accomplished when a community rallies for a good cause.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Department was recently awarded the annual Give Back contest sponsored by FMK9, a Berrien Center Michigan-based business, that provides quality canines for law enforcement. How it works is the department with the most votes gets half off the purchase of a dog and training.
According to Flora McHenry with FMK9, over 70,000 votes were cast for 20 agencies from across the country.
“It wasn’t even close, Lee County blew it out of the water,” said McHenry. “It’s a testament to the citizen’s loyalty toward the department of that county.”
Spearheaded by Lee County Chief Deputy Derek Ranken, the department realized that there was a need for a second Canine Unit. Currently, Nemo has been on the job for four years and could use a little help.
“As a result of the high call volume that we received this past year, we want a canine patrol on both shifts so there is always one available,” explained Ranken.
With the support of newly elected Lee County Sheriff Clay Whelan, the department “threw their hat in the ring” and it worked out in their favor.
“Special recognition goes out to Deputy Ranken who did an outstanding job with this initiative,” said Whelan. “With the overwhelming endorsement of our citizens, we are now looking forward to implementing another canine unit.”
Next in the process will be to interview deputies that are interested in becoming a handler and having a dog for a partner. Then, it’s off to FMK9 to pick out a pup and start the six weeks of training. The dogs are considered full service-dual purpose deputies that will be trained in general law enforcement, narcotics detection, the fleeing of suspects, and tracking for missing persons.
“These dogs are used as a tool to help officers and deputies at the scene to avoid putting them in bad situations,” said Ranken.
The dogs and handlers are required by the state to train 16 hours a month along with recertification once a year.
The training can consist of the department using an abandoned building, business or school to have the dogs sweep the areas for drugs or possible human remains in a blind search scenario. The sheriff’s office hopes to have a deputy, and dog in place by spring. The department plans on making visits with Nemo and the newest member of the department to local schools, and YMCA’s for presentations to teach children about the ways the dogs are helping protect everyone.
“It gives us a chance to let the children and everyone else experience how the dogs make a positive impact with safety,” added Ranken. “This is all a result of our citizen’s support and we can’t thank them enough.”
There are some ongoing fundraising efforts to help purchase new equipment to be fitted in the canine squad car. If you’d like to help out, please send your donation to The Lee County Sheriff’s Office, 240 E. Progress Drive, Dixon IL. 61021.