Fundraiser for K-9 vehicle still $15K short
By Brandi Makuski
The Plover Police Department has raised about $33,000 for its new K-9 program, but it still has a way to go before meeting its overall goal.
The program is the latest of many firsts at PPD; in the last 18 months alone Chief Dan Ault has implemented the department’s Explorers program, a drone program — known as an “unmanned aerial vehicle”, or UAV — and has seen all of its officers complete crisis intervention training (CIT), which educates officers on handling service calls involving the mentally ill or someone undergoing an emotional crisis.
Now, the department continues raising funds for its K-9 program. The K-9, 10-month-old Ice, and all the dog and handler training was donated to the dept. by Haus Von Stolz Kennels in Lomira, a small city just south of Fond du Lac — itself a $16,000 value.
“Fundraising has been very good; we’re at about the $33,000 mark,” Ault said. “But everything is contingent on getting that vehicle — we’re still $15,000 short of our goal.”
Ault said a K-9 squad unit, fully equipped, was likely to cost about $35,000.
Along with continued fundraising, so to continues K-9 training. While Ice undergoes regular drug detection training at Haus Von Stolz, she also gets the chance to work regularly with Officer Seth Pionke, Plover’s first-ever K-9 officer.
Though he was originally appointed to become a certified K-9 instructor so he could train future dogs for Plover and other departments, Pionke was named the department’s K-9 officer after representatives of the kennel observed his repertoire with the dog.
“I’m excited,” Pionke said last week, as he tossed a tug toy for Ice to retrieve on the grounds of a building known simply as the “Tac House” — an out-of-the-way and unremarkable building located in southeast Plover. The Tac House is used by Plover police and other local law enforcement agencies to practice SWAT maneuvers in a simulated residential layout, but last week it was used by Pionke and Ice to practice searching for drugs.
Pionke has described Ice as a “rock star” during her training; he said the dog is performing above expectations for her age.
“But obviously it’s a tough decision when it comes down to being a community service officer (CSO) and not being able to do some of it,” Pionke said. “For the most part it’ll still be around the same schedule, but I’m obviously you’re on call 24/7, so we’ll see what it winds up being.”
Pionke said many police departments have both a K-9 program and patrol officers, but the two aren’t always overlapped.
“We’ve said from day one this was an investment for the entire community, so they’ll see her quite a bit,” Pionke said. “The nice thing is I won’t be stuck with a lot of reports; I’ll be doing a lot of programs with the dog, so in reality I’ll have more time to do the things [Ice] is trained to do.”
As CSO for the village, Pionke oversees programs including bike rodeos, drug awareness and internet safety inside Plover’s schools. He’s also a mainstay at any number of fundraisers and public events the PPD becomes involved in, to include Shop With a Cop and the upcoming Cops-n-Bobbers fishing event.
Ault said Pionke will likely continue on as the department’s CSO, but with slightly different responsibilities.
“Seth has taught healthy relationships at Ben Franklin [Jr. High], he’s helped with MORP — whether or not he can continue to do those things with the K-9 dog, we’re still trying to figure that out,” he said.
“But I’ve said from the beginning this is the community’s dog,” Ault added. “We’ll take her into the schools, she’ll be highly visible in the community; I want people to see the K-9 out on patrols. Drug dealers don’t keep set hours, so the dog’s availability to the public is important.”
Pionke is part-way through his required 400 hours of instructor training with the kennel. After that, he’ll take up a five-week full-immersion training at the Lomira kennel before becoming certified at Ice’s full-time partner.
“Seth became the natural choice based on his commitment,” Ault said as he watched Pionke and Ice together at the Tac House. “I mean, just look at those two. He was already working with the dog as a part of his instructor training; it kind of just evolved into a natural selection kind of thing.”
Ice is scheduled to complete her training and officially join the Plover Police Department in December, which is the same time Pionke is scheduled to complete his own handler training.
“We’re still taking donations and we’ve got still t-shirts for sale,” Ault said. “Hopefully, we can acquire the vehicle by December.”
Tax deductible donations for the new K-9 can be made online http://www.cfcwi.org/ or by sending a check to the Community Foundation directly at: CFCWI, P.O. BOX 968, Stevens Point, WI 54481
For questions about the program, contact Chief Dan Ault at email@example.com.