When members of New London’s public safety committee meet tonight, two hot-button issues on the agenda are the treatment of police dogs and staffing levels in the police department.
Because of city budget difficulties, New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said two of the K9s will have to go.
One is a bloodhound named Bessie, who Finizio said will be donated to another law enforcement agency.
The other is a drug-sniffing dog named Buck. The city is retiring him because the city can't afford Buck's arthritis medication, which is about $720 per year, the mayor said.
That has caused some backlash in the community.
“When you have a police dog who's arthritic but still wants to do his job, he should still be able to do his job,” State Rep. Diana Urban (D-North Stonington) said.
The police chief is warning that lingering budget issues could result in 15 layoffs and many residents said a city of New London's size cannot afford layoffs of this magnitude from a crime-fighting standpoint.
According to the police union website, 12 officers have left the police department in just this last month.
“The mayor said there weren't going to be any cuts in the police department until at least the second half of next fiscal year, which is next December,” city councilor Marie Friess-McSparran said. “But we've had police officers that are leaving the city for fear of being laid off.”
The mayor released a statement in response. It says, in part:
"The city must balance law enforcement needs with financial and physical realities. If a K-9 is having significant health issues, a retirement is a proper way to ensure the dog gets the rest, care, and lifestyle it has earned and deserved," Finizio said.
On Tuesday, the mayor's office released a statement saying Finizio will not attend the meeting because of ongoing police contract negotiations.
“The City administration will not attend and put the City in a position to incur any liabilities. I reiterate my position that crime is being reduced throughout the City, especially related to major crimes, and our patrol strength is adequate to meet our public safety needs at this time. The current contract requirements for a K-9 program have been met and mutual aid can be utilized if a need arises,” Finizio said in a statement.