By Michelle Dupler
When the Franklin Township Police Department put out the call to raise $1,200 for a ballistics vest for resident police dog Falco, it only took three days for the community to meet the need.
Officer Joe Mullins, Falco’s human partner, said community support for the K9 cop has been strong since Falco joined the force a few months ago.
For his part, Falco has helped take nearly two pounds of heroin and 11.5 pounds of marijuana off the township’s streets since September.
“We’re out here trying to keep the community safe the best we can,” Mullins said.
But police work can be dangerous, even for a muscular Belgian malinois trained to tackle suspects with powerful jaws. That’s where the ballistics vest comes in – to protect Falco if bullets start to fly.
“So far we haven’t encountered a dangerous situation,” Mullins said. “Every day we do carry out dangerous work. He deserves the same level of protection as his human partners.”
Falco’s vest is being purchased through Vest Ohio K9s, a nonprofit that helps police agencies raise money for various types of equipment for police dogs.
The $1,200 that Franklin Township raised will buy the ballistics vest, plus a cooling vest that Falco can wear during hot summer months and a trauma pack that will allow Mullins to administer first aid to the dog if he is shot or stabbed in the field.
When the township’s trustees authorized the police department to acquire Falco last summer, it was on the condition that the cost would be paid entirely by private donations with no taxpayer money in the mix.
Police Chief Allen Wheeler was able to secure enough donations of money and services — including donated vet care — to buy Falco from a police dog school in Germany, outfit a police car to carry the dog, and train Mullins to work with the K9.
But equipment like the ballistics vest carried an extra price tag and required more fundraising. Mullins said the next need is for a “hot and pop” device that includes a heat alarm that will tell him when the police car is too hot for Falco’s safety, and a remote button that Mullins can use to open the car when he needs Falco’s help to tackle a suspect.
The police department also is looking for a donated SUV that would allow Falco to ride in the car while leaving room to transport a suspect to jail. Mullins and Falco currently use a standard police cruiser with the entire back seat outfitted for the dog and leaving no space for a prisoner. That means Mullins has to call another officer from the township’s short-staffed police department to pick up a suspect when he and Falco make an arrest.
The hope is that eventually Falco will help seize enough cash or assets from drug busts to support the dog’s upkeep and bring in some extra money to the police department.
In the meantime, the department continues to rely on community generosity.
Donations can be made by dropping them off to the police department or mailing them to 2193 Frank Road, Columbus, OH 43223.