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Rocklin police budget takes bite out of K-9 unit

Volunteers mobilize to replace retiring Rocklin K-9
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Placer County Sheriff’s deputies recently ended a vehicle pursuit down I-80 from Auburn to Rocklin, but it was Rocklin K-9 Zeus who stopped the suspect who had ditched the car and was running through Rocklin neighborhoods. Zeus’ handler, Officer Jeff Kolaskey, loves sharing war stories about his partner. “(The suspect exited the vehicle and ignored commands to stop. Zeus was sent to apprehend the suspect,” Kolaskey said. “There were no other K-9s on duty at this time in Placer County, so I was happy to help the Sheriff’s department.” After July 1, Rocklin will no longer have Zeus around to help apprehend suspects. The dog will retire after a decade on the police force. Now Rocklin Police volunteers are scrambling to raise money for a new K-9, training, food and a bullet/knife proof vest. “(Zeus) never wants to quit, but he’s slowing down,” Police Volunteer Coordinator Becky Kanowsky said. “It doesn’t matter if he was two-years-old, there is no dog in the budget.” The Rocklin Police Department is expected to lose nearly $100,000 in state funding due to the current budget crisis. So far, the department has been able to survive the recession through years of cost savings measures, including position attrition, acquiring surplus equipment from the California Highway Patrol and asking staff to take salary concessions. But Rocklin Police Lt. Lon Milka said the current K-9 program could face the budget axe. “We’re requesting funds for a new dog and training in the FY 2011/2012 budget with the hope the volunteers and fundraisers will raise enough funds to donate to the replacement amount,” Milka said. “However, even that does not guarantee the replacement of the dog will make it through the final budget process, but we’re hopeful that it will.” City Council members are expected to discuss the matter during their June 7 budget hearing. Zeus is a German shepherd trained to search for evading criminals as well as detect bombs and explosives. The department’s only drug detection dog, Diva, is a black Labrador who has been trained to sit whenever she smells drugs. She is not trained to apprehend suspects, however. With the retirement of Zeus, Rocklin officers could be put in harm’s way. “A K-9 keeps the officers safer, if they have to go into a building or run after a suspect,” Kanowsky said. Over the past few weeks, volunteers have been going door to door collecting donations and asking for help. Ben’s Bark Avenue Bistro is raising money for a new dog and Whole Foods has pledged to feed the new K-9 for up to one year. Last month, fundraising dinners at Johnny Garlic’s and California Pizza Kitchen brought in several hundred dollars, but it will take several thousand to get the job done. “$15,000 will buy a dog, but not much else,” Kanowsky said. Residents at The Springfield retirement community in Whitney Oaks are planning a dinner, auction and raffle this weekend to raise funds for the K9 unit. “Our fundraising event is called ‘A Doggone Good Time,” said Kanowsky. “We’ll start early at 4 p.m. because there is so much happening – raffle, silent auction, live auction, popcorn machine, yogurt truck, neck massages, drinks and a doghouse jail. Arrests are possible for any reason, which will result in a stint in our doghouse jail. Warning: don’t wear brown shoes.” Current and former Rocklin Police Chiefs are also donating time for the cause. “Mark Siemens is going to take someone for a ride in his airplane,” Kanowsky said. “We’re also auctioning off (Chief) Ron Lawrence and Deputy Chief Dan Ruden for a tour of the police department, a ride-along and lunch.” The big fund raising dinner will be held Saturday at The Gables at Springfield at Whitney Oaks, 2801 Springfield Drive in Rocklin. As for Zeus, he won’t be going out to pasture. He’ll most likely remain with his handler throughout his retirement years. “He is a member of the family,” Kolaskey said.