By Bob Balgemann

One-half of the police department’s corps of canine officers, Shep, continues to struggle in his effort to completely recover from a round of surgeries during 2021.

Police Chief Shane Woody, in his monthly departmental update to the Committee of the Whole on Jan. 24, reported Shep needed more surgery on his left leg, putting in a new ligament along with a plate holding the ligament together.

“Unfortunately, since then, Shep has been battling infection after infection; his progress has kept him from being able to rehabilitate the leg properly,” the chief continued. “He has regular, around-the-clock care. A suggestion was to remove the plate in the left leg, in an attempt to remove the cause of the infection.”

Looking ahead, he said, “It’s possible that when healed, Shep may not be operational as a working canine. Command staff is looking at all the city’s options and will monitor Shep’s health over the next few weeks.”

Shep underwent other surgeries last year and there was a time, after an extensive recovery period, that he returned to the job in the fall with his handler, Officer Zach Reese. In fact, Woody told the story of how he had returned to duty and was able to track and locate a missing 13-year-old child.

With his being back at work, the department’s two-canine corps was back intact. The new addition, Solo, graduated from training and his next stop was deployment into the field. He replaced canine Frank Sinatra, better known as Frankie, who had joined his handler, former Officer Brandon Parker, in retirement.

Solo’s handler is Officer Ralph Zaph.

Also in his report, Woody reported that on Jan. 17 the department handled a one-car crash at Fairground and Van Buren. The driver and sole occupant experienced a medical emergency and ran off the roadway. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Earlier, on Dec. 19, he said the department responded to the report of a triple homicide in the 600 block of Union Avenue. Since then, a Huntley man was arrested for those murders and the investigation is ongoing.

SWAT vehicle

Also during the Jan. 24 meeting the committee recommended unanimously, in a voice vote, to make necessary modifications to the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) armored vehicle, by SWATMOD, at a cost of $10,730. The request is expected to be considered at Monday night’s city council meeting.

Here is the work that’s proposed to be done to that vehicle:

• Heavy duty lower bumper to protect the vehicle.

“The guard will protrude low enough to allow the (SWAT) team to block vehicles, without the vehicle being able to maneuver underneath the armored vehicle,” Woody explained. “Also, prevents the armored vehicle from going up and over the front or rear of the vehicle. SWATMOD would have to fabricate this bumper,” at a cost of $3,440.

• Replace stock halogen headlights with upgraded LED headlights.

“LED would be far brighter and offer greater range of illumination,” he reported. That cost would be $470.

• Application of vinyl decals on front/rear and both sides of the vehicle, at a cost of $1,940.

• Current vehicle tires have dry rot. Request was to replace all four tires with used tires, in excellent condition, including O-rings and valve stems, if needed, for $4,880.

Alderman Marsha Freeman had a question: “When we first gave you money for this vehicle, we provided $76,290 for upgrades. Part of that was for the emergency lighting consisting of eight red lights, eight blue lights, mounted respectively on the front and rear of the vehicle, 16 lights total, extremely bright LEDs, for $2,700. That didn’t include the headlights?”

“No, ma’am,” Woody replied. “That would have been emergency lighting. What I’m requesting tonight is the lighting itself.”

“Ok,” Freeman said, and added, “We also gave $9,925 for sandblasting and other body work. Did we get that done? Is the vehicle black now?”

“That’s correct,” the chief answered, “but the color might end up being mat green, as opposed to black. What I’m requesting this evening would be the details, to go on top of the paint job itself.”

SWATMOD is located in St. Cloud, Minn., and specializes in a variety of services for SWAT and emergency vehicles.

In other business the committee unanimously recommended approval of a $100 donation from Paul and Dorothy Hale, to be used for this year’s departmental meeting. Final approval is expected at Monday night’s city council meeting.

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