Edinburgh police’s first K-9 in nearly 40 years is now patrolling the streets after a donation was made in honor of a fallen officer.
Skye, a six-year-old Labrador retriever, was donated to the Edinburgh Police Department earlier this month. A formal dedication ceremony for the donation took place Friday at Guardian K9 in Columbus. Guardian K9 is a dog daycare, training and overnight lodging provider that also provides training for police dogs.
The donation was made by the 550 Foundation in honor of Charlestown Police Sgt. Ben Bertram, who was killed in the line of duty during a police pursuit in December 2018 in southern Indiana. The 550 Foundation was created to carry on Bertram’s legacy of protecting and serving the community and his love of police dogs by providing free K-9s, equipment and training to agencies in need, said Sean Pendleton, president of the foundation and owner of Guardian K9.
K-9 Skye is trained in narcotics and tracking, and her journey to Edinburgh police began last year. Her handler at the time, a friend of Pendleton’s, approached him saying his current police agency wouldn’t allow him to continue to use Skye’s abilities.
“He said her talents were being wasted and asked what we can do to get her to another department,” Pendleton said.
Pendleton did remedial training with Skye to make sure she was good to go. Once this was done, the foundation’s five-member board asked departments to send in applications for the foundation to decide which department Skye would serve. The board includes Pendleton, his wife, a sheriff’s deputy and two members of Bertram’s family, Pendleton said.
The board then deliberated before unanimously choosing Edinburgh as the recipient of Skye. Pendleton recused himself from this decision as he formerly worked for Edinburgh Police.
“I let the board deliberate and it was a unanimous decision for Edinburgh to get the dog,” he said. “I contacted Chief Little about it, and they were ecstatic.”
At Edinburgh, Skye will be on patrol with her handler, Officer Darren Koors, conducting narcotics investigations. Skye will also be used to help track and find lost children, and will not bite, said Doyne Little, police chief.
Since Skye began going on patrol earlier this month, she has been deployed over 20 times, has found narcotics eight times and helped secure eight arrests, Little said.
Skye will soon not be the only K-9 with Edinburgh Police. A second K-9, Kira, will soon be joining the ranks.
Kira, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois, is currently undergoing training with her handler, Officer Ryan Coy. Once her training is completed, she will be able to track suspects and be used to help apprehend them, Little said.
The department purchased Kira using funds raised by the public. Earlier this year, Little came before the town council to ask for permission to reestablish the department’s K-9 program and get donations to fund it.
The need for the program’s reestablishment stems from the town’s problems with drug crime. Drug crime has been up and down for several years, but it’s been a steady rise this year, Little said earlier this year.
Since the department started accepting donations for the program, the department has received about $43,000, well over the $16,000 quote from Guardian K9 the town voted to proceed with in June. The extra funds are being put aside for future K-9 expenses, Little said.
Little says the support from the community and the foundation has been unbelievable. He knew Bertram, so knowing his family was involved, along with his former coworker, was inspiring, he said.
“Just to know all of the people involved, just their passion, and to have their son’s legacy move forward is just inspiring,” Little said.
For Pendleton, donating Skye to his former department is a moment of satisfaction.
“It is a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and completion,” he said.
When Pendleton was with the department, he and Little were patrol officers and they pitched the idea of restarting the K-9 program. It did not happen, however.
“Now Little, as chief, was able to get the town board on board and get the program reinstated,” he said. “… Being the one to be able to provide the dog to my old agency, it goes full circle.”
Being able to help the department purchase and train Kira, the second K-9, was an additional bonus, he said. The foundation is working to help police agencies with K-9s as equipped and ready as possible.
“We are trying to create a culture in the community through the foundation that we are here to help everyone and we want to help people succeed,” Pendleton said.
As long as Little is chief, Edinburgh will continue to have a K-9 program, and he will grow it if the need ever arises.
“It is the best tool we have for dealing with narcotics,” Little said. “If we can get dealers and dope off the street, we will save a life.”
The department is continuing to take donations to help fund the K-9 program, and those who are interested in donating should contact Little at 812-526-3500 or email [email protected]