By Bob Balgemann


It didn’t take one of the police department’s two canines, Shep, long to resume earning his keep after an extended time away from the job. 

Police Chief Shane Woody was giving the Committee of the Whole his monthly report on activities at the police department, when he mentioned that Shep was back on duty. 

“Recently, we had a report of a missing 13-year-old child that Shep was able to track and locate,” he said. “That is a perfect example of why these canines are beneficial to the community.” 

Shep had undergone surgery and then follow-up surgery to correct a related problem before he was able to rejoin his handler, Officer Zach Reese, on patrol. Given the medical difficulties, Woody said the dog did have some restrictions attached to his returning to work. 

The department now has the full, two-dog complement in its canine division with the addition of Solo. The chief said Solo had graduated from training and would be “going into deployment in the near future.” Solo’s handler is Officer Rich Zaph. He replaced Frank Sinatra, better known as Franky, who retired and was sold to his former handler, Officer Brandon Parker, who also retired earlier this year.

“It looks like we made a good investment in Canine Shep,” Mayor Clint Morris said. 

“Yes, he rebounded quite well,” Woody responded. “We were concerned about the infection scare, but he seems to have gotten over that quite nicely.” 

The chief also made the following points in his report: 

• Since his last presentation to the committee, he said the department swore in four new officers, three laterals and one entry level. He added that he appreciated the aldermen who were able to attend the ceremony. 

• The department has equipped about 98 percent of its officers with body cameras. “Just a couple more squad cars need to be equipped with what they need,” he said. 

• Another police academy has started at the Public Safety Building. “We are doing it a little bit differently this time,” he explained. “There has been some interest in the Hispanic community. Some members of that community only speak Spanish, or mostly Spanish. So Deputy Chief Matt Wallace has considered how we can accommodate that.” 

• Police participated Aug. 3 in the local observance of National Night Out, a nationwide event started in 1984 to enhance the relationship between law enforcement officers and the community. Woody said participation from the community was down a bit this year.

Alderman Dan Snow said he wasn’t aware National Night Out was held that day. He suggested Woody provide more of an advanced announcement when that event was coming, saying that might encourage better attendance. 

Woody replied he would do that. But he added some of the lack of participation was for reasons other than the lack of advance announcements. 

SWAT rifles 

In another police-related matter. the committee voted 8-1 with Alderman Marsha Freeman dissenting to purchase two Daniel Defense 5.56-millemeter, 14.5-inch barreled rifles for the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team, at a cost of $2,662.

“When I initially requested to purchase these rifles five years ago, my request was to purchase two a year for four years, in order to outfit our eight-person SWAT team,” Woody recalled. “At that time, I also informed the council that the SWAT team was using rifles with a 20-inch barrel and an overall length of 39.5 inches. These rifles made it difficult to traverse terrain inside houses, businesses and other structures found in an urban area. Going to a shorter barreled rifle allowed the team to move through the terrain much easier, while still having the benefits of a rifle.”   

If approved, he said, the outfitting of all SWAT operators with rifles conducive to urban environments will be completed. 

Freeman said she looked at some videos and found “they’re pretty bad rifles.” 

She also looked at reports and the SWAT team was only deployed five times in the last two years. Three of those five times were to serve warrants. “So I’m not sure each eight-member SWAT team needs one of these certified automatic weapons.” 

Woody replied, “First of all they’re semi-automatic, not automatic. They fire one round at a time.” 

After reiterating what had been stated in the memorandum received by the committee, he added, “Yes, it is important to have all of the officers have one of these rifles. You can’t always count on the same eight officers being at an incident.” 

City council at its Sept. 7 meeting voted 9-0 to approve purchase of the rifles.

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