Congrats to K9s4COPs’ founder Kristi Schiller, who is being honored as a “Harvey’s Hero” Thursday on the “Steve Harvey Show.” The talk show airs at 3 p.m. on KRIV, Fox 26.
In 2010 Schiller founded the nonprofit group that supplies crime-fighting dogs to police departments around the country.
“In Houston alone,” she tells Harvey, “our K9s have resulted in over 400 arrests and taken $3.5 million worth of cash and over 85 weapons off the streets. We had one dog, in one night, do a $23 million bust. Why would you not want that for your department?”
Tight law enforcement budgets are to blame, she knows. That’s why she decided to step in with private funds.
“At K9s4COPs,” she tells the TV audience, “we feel that your safety shouldn’t be hindered, your streets should not be less safe, because of a budget cut.”
To date, Schiller and her organization have given 89 trained dogs to law enforcement agencies in 19 states. Of the eight officers who appear on stage to thank Schiller for her work, one is Ted Dahlin, an investigator for Harris County Constable Precinct 4.
Schiller was inspired to start K9s4Cops when she learned that Dahlin’s police dog, Blek, was killed in the line of duty. Without her help, Dahlin would have had to raise $10,000 to $15,000 to buy a new police dog.
Thursday, K9s4COPs takes over Chicago for the ‘Steve Harvey Show’!
K9s4COPs Founder, Kristi Schiller, receives the honor of being named a “Harvey’s Hero” on Thursday’s episode of the ‘Steve Harvey Show’. Little did Schiller know, there were nine K9 teams from across the country that were coming to surprise her and thank her for starting the organization that enabled them to get their K9 partner.
Between the tears, barking and laughter, Schiller explains her inspiration for K9s4COPs (Spoiler alert: He surprises her, too.) how K9s4COPs has grown, the impact they have had in your communities, and how you can help out!
K9s4COPs grants Austin County Sheriff’s Office with their only police K9, Jack, a single purpose narcotics detection dog.
K9 Jack with Austin County Sheriff’s Office, granted by K9s4COPs.
In 2014, K9s4COPs partnered up with AMK9 Academy in Alabama, to place returning “Hero Dogs” from Afghanistan into law enforcement agencies across the country.
Austin County Sheriff’s Office applied for K9s4COPs’ grant and received the exciting news that their application had been accepted in December 2014. In January, Deputy John Fullen headed to AMK9 Academy for six weeks to select and train with his new partner. After working with three other dogs, Fullen selected K9 Jack and the two graduated from training on February 6, 2015.
K9 Jack has since “hit the streets” of Austin County with his handler, patrolling over 20 miles of highway and has already gone on four deployments in his first two weeks.
“Jack has come in at a time when we have not had a canine designated for Austin County. There is a strong need for a narcotics canine and he is definitely fulfilling that need and service that we have been without for about two years. Everyday that we have been on duty, Jack has been called out. Having him just gives us that extra tool to catch any money or drugs going up and down our highway and community.” –Deputy John Fullen
K9s4COPs is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that grants K9s to law enforcement agencies and schools in need. In 4 years, the organization has granted 82 K9s to 50 agencies and 5 schools in 17 states. Each K9 costs between $10,000-$15,000, depending on their purpose. The grant provided by K9s4COPs pays for the cost of the K9, as well as the training for the officer and his K9 partner. To learn more about K9s4COPs or to donate, please visit www.K9s4COPs.org.
Deputy John Fullen and K9 Jack with Austin County Sheriff’s Office and Kristi Schiller, Founder of K9s4COPs on February 23, 2015 at the Austin County Courthouse.
Watching a news broadcast about a grief-stricken Houston-area deputy who lost his K9 partner during a struggle with a suspect, the reporter mentioned there wasn’t enough money to give the officer a replacement pup. A self-described lover of both dogs and law enforcement, Schiller dug into her own pocket to pay for a new K9 partner for the deputy. That was four years and sixty dogs ago.
Ruff Times: Woman Donates K9s to Cops
Police K9’s do important work, no one disputes that, but many police and sheriff’s departments are cash crunched and have been forced to cut K9s from the budget. The highly trained dogs can cost upwards of $15,000, just for the initial purchase. Schiller saw a need and vowed to fill it. She started K9s4COPS, a non-profit organization that buys and trains the dogs and then gives them away to law enforcement officers. Her first fundraiser was in her backyard. She began knocking on corporate doors all over Texas, asking for donations.
“Kristi Schiller is not a gal you say no to,” says a friend who became a supporter.
Any law enforcement agency can apply and Schiller has enlisted a handful of deputies and police officers who review the applications once a quarter and make recommendations. Those who receive good news travel to Houston to choose and train with their K9 partner before returning home as a team. Schiller’s dogs are now fighting crime in 17 states.
Pasadena, Texas Police Office Mark Brinker received his K9 partner, Austin, in January.
“It would be a whole different show without him,” Brinker says.
Schiller deflects the credit, “It’s amazing what they’ve done with what little I’ve given them.”
Instead, she wants to tell you about her next challenge, giving dogs to schools. The mom of a young daughter, Schiller has launched K9s4KIDS and has given away six so far to promote what she calls a safe learning environment.
Budget cuts are a primary concern for Law Enforcement as it is the single most expensive cost to local municipalities. K9 units are one of the first to feel the pinch, explains Kristi Schiller, Founder of K9s4COPs, a non-profit formed to address the need for funding the purchase of K9s for law enforcement agencies. The dogs are crucial to police departments due to their ability to work through simple problems that are more complicated for humans, their sense of smell to detect people, drugs and contraband in a more efficient, cost-saving way, and most importantly, to protect, and in some cases, save the lives of the officers. While pilot programs are in place to test devices from companies such as Taser International and GOPRO, K9 units provide a service no human or machine can to supplement and enhance law enforcement.
The tragic story of a police K9 lost in the line of duty inspired the founding of an organization dedicated to improving the effectiveness of law enforcement and ensuring public safety.
Harris County Precinct 4 Deputy Ted Dahlin spent more than three years building up an intense level of trust with his partner.
The two had gone through rigorous training together, and out on patrol, Dahlin was secure in the knowledge that his partner would lay down his life to protect Dahlin’s if necessary, without question and without hesitation.
That’s what partners do—particularly, partners of the four-legged variety.
“When you’re on an eight- or 10-hour shift and you’re subject to call out 24/7, you spend a lot of time with your dog,” Dahlin said. “Once they’ve found that first or second bad guy who could have killed you if he wanted to, you learn to trust your K9.”
In the late afternoon hours of Dec. 22, 2009, Dahlin and his K9 partner, a 5-year-old Czech-German shepherd named Blek, responded to a burglary call. It was the last call Dahlin and Blek would ever work together. Two burglary suspects, surprised by the arrival of uniformed officers, had fled into a wooded area of north Houston. Blek went in after them, just as he was trained to do, but he didn’t come out.
One of the burglary suspects, a 17-year-old named Cornelious Harrell, strangled Blek to death. Dahlin had lost his partner and his friend.
“That night was very hard,” Dahlin remembers. “I spent more time with Blek than I did my family. When I lost him, it kind of took the wind out of my sails. “Really, all I wanted after that night was to see something good come from that horrible incident.” And in fact, something good would come from it.
Learning of Dahlin’s loss and Blek’s sacrifice while watching the evening news, Houston-area philanthropist and animal lover Kristi Schiller was moved to act. She called a local politician she knew and inquired about donating a new K9 to the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office. Her generous request was met with little more than questions and bureaucratic red tape. “I quickly found it wasn’t as easy to donate a dog as I thought it would be,” Schiller says.
Next, Schiller took to the Internet in search of some sort of charitable organization that could cut through the red tape and help her fulfill her wish of donating a K9. Again, she came up empty, but she did learn through her Internet search that more than a dozen law enforcement agencies, just in her home state of Texas, were in the process of trying to acquire K9s. She also learned that a trained K9 carried an initial price tag of between $10,000 and $15,0000, and that K9 unit budgets were often the first casualty of rough economic times within a police department.
“I saw a need that wasn’t being fulfilled and decided that I needed to do something to help. I decided that this was my calling,” Schiller says. “I called our lawyer and said I wanted to start a charity.”
In June 2010, Schiller founded K9s4COPs with the mission of raising charitable funds to acquire and donate trained K9s to law enforcement agencies in need. On March 27, 2011, the organization received its 501 (c)(3) non-profit status, and less than a month later, K9s4COPs made its first donation to the Harris County (Texas) Sheriff’s Department: four K9s named Boomer, Fozzie, Mikey and Tamara.
Since then, K9s4COPs has grown exponentially. In 2011, the organization donated 10 K9s to two agencies in Texas. In 2012, the tally was 13 K9s to nine agencies in three states. So far this year, K9s4COPs has gifted 19 K9s to 15 agencies in seven different states, and in just over two years since its inception has raised more than $2 million to support the cause.
“We’re filling a gap that counties and districts often can’t fill,” said K9s4COPs Executive Director Liz Lara-Carreno. “We don’t want money to ever be an issue getting in the way of an officer having a K9 and performing the work they do in the community.”
The Harris County Sheriff’s Department, recipient of K9s4COPs’ first-ever gift, has since received 16 K9s from the organization, bringing the department K9 unit’s roster to 23 K9s.
Sgt. Mike Thomas has been with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department since 1985 and has spent the last 22 years working with the K9 unit. He’s worked his way from the bottom up— starting out as a bite-suit-wearing decoy during K9 training sessions and now serving as day- shift sergeant as well as training sergeant—and he’s seen the unit grow. Thanks to K9s4COPs, he says, the department’s K9 unit has almost tripled in size in the time he’s worked there.
The addition of all those well-trained dogs has benefitted not only the department and the officers they patrol with. More importantly, it’s benefitted the community as a whole—and the benefit is quantifiable.
“Those 16 dogs that K9s4COPS have donated have improved the quality of life for the citizens of Harris County,” he says. “You think about the felony suspects they’ve taken off the streets, the dope they’ve taken off the streets. One of our dogs in the last year has taken $6 million dollars worth of drugs off the street, and I have several that have taken over $4 million.”
Deputies Alex Chapa and Daniel Kerrigan are two of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department officers who have benefitted from the generosity of K9s4COPs. Both took a trip with Sgt. Thomas and other deputies to a kennel several states away to select their donated K9 partners.
For Kerrigan, who had never owned a dog before and went to the kennel with no preconceived notions, the selection of Dutch shepherd Bailey, dual trained for patrol and narcotics detection, was all about the eye test. Chapa, on the other hand, had more of a predetermined idea about the qualities he would look for in a new partner.
“Going in, I knew I wanted a smaller dog,” Chapa said. “I’m about 5 feet 8 inches, 185 pounds or so, and I didn’t want a dog that would drag me through the woods or knock me off my feet.”
Chapa found his perfect match in Rocco, a Belgian Malinois with specialized training as a patrol K9 and in explosive detection.
“He was probably the smallest dog I saw, but he had the biggest attitude out of all of them. He was everything I wanted: a small dog with a crazy motor.”
Both deputies agree that the K9 partners they’ve received through the generosity of K9s4COPs are helping them perform their duties better and more confidently.
“At the sheriff’s office, we don’t have two-man units, so this is the best you could ask for,” Chapa said. “You always have someone there that has your back. If somebody’s trying to fight me or hurt me, I’ve always got Rocco there to have my back. I’ve got my own support 24/7.”
Kerrigan learned very early on in his career with the K9 unit that the sense of security Chapa describes can turn very real.
Just out of K9 school, Kerrigan and Bailey saw their first real-world deployment when they were called with other officers to respond to a home invasion. Gunfire was exchanged, and the armed suspect fled into a wooded area. After a good deal of searching through the brush, Kerrigan and his dog located the suspect, who turned his gun on Kerrigan. That’s when Kerrigan’s K9 partner went into action, bursting toward the armed suspect, hitting him hard in the arm and knocking the gun loose. The suspect was taken into custody, and Kerrigan and his K9 lived to serve another day.
Now having served with K9 Bailey for two years, Kerrigan has developed a keen appreciation for the abilities of these brave service dogs. They are valuable partners in the war on crime.
“Since I became a K9 handler, my ability to catch suspects is probably two or three times what it was before. And that’s just one handler,” he says. “Our K9 unit has more than doubled in size in the two years I’ve been here, so if you factor in the money seizures, the narcotics seizures, the fleeing suspects we’ve caught, the armed suspects we’ve taken off the streets and you multiply that times the 15 or 16 dogs we’ve gotten, that’s a lot of bad guys K9s4COPS has taken off the streets through their gifts to us.”
Besides the physical gift of police K9s, the K9s4COPs organization is also providing a valuable service to law enforcement in the area of training. This past October, K9s4COPs hosted its first Texas K9 Officers Conference and Trials in Houston, bringing in subject matter experts from around the U.S. to share knowledge with the 75 K9 officers who attended. The officers were able to learn new techniques and gain valuable TCLEOSE (Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education) certification hours. This inaugural conference was such a success that plans are already being made for a larger conference in 2014.
On the 2013 conference’s final day, 30 K9/handler teams had the opportunity to let off a little steam and put their abilities on display at the Hard Dog Fast Dog Competition at Thorne Stadium in Houston. K9 competitors were put to the test and judged on the power and strength with which they could hit a bite-suit-clad decoy (Hard Dog) and how fast they could run (Fast Dog).
Fittingly, it was two well-trained K9s4COPs-donated dogs from the Harris County Sheriff’s Department that took home top honors in the competition. Alex Chapa’s partner Rocco posted a 31 mph sprint time to win Fast Dog, and Daniel Kerrigan’s partner Bailey finished off a dead run by putting a ferocious hit on a decoy to take Hard Dog honors.
While the event was a lot of fun for the participants and for members of the public who gathered to cheer on the competitors, Chapa noted that the K9s4COPs Hard Dog Fast Dog Competition provided more than just entertainment value.
“Basically, we were competing in what we do,” he said. “You know, we don’t really get graded on the job. They just tell you, ‘Hey good job’ or, ‘hey you caught the bad guy.’ Getting to see the other dogs work and getting to meet other handlers from all over Texas gave me something to work on moving forward.”
Standing with K9s4COPs founder Kristi Schiller and receiving their
Hard Dog and Fast Dog awards at midfield of Thorne Stadium, Kerrigan and Chapa were able to reflect on the real value of Schiller’s young organization—both to themselves personally and to the community at large.
“I know for sure if it wasn’t for K9s4COPs, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Chapa noted. “Our K9 unit wouldn’t be as strong as it is.”
“It’s really cool that we get to work with dogs,” Kerrigan said. “But when you break it down to what it’s really accomplishing, it’s a lot bigger than just more cops with dogs. It’s safer people.
“While I’ve benefitted from having the K9 they donated,” he said. “I think our community has benefitted even more—the good guys in the community, anyway.”
A going away party for crime? That’s how the Harriman Police Department is describing their annual Night Out Against Crime event at the Riverfront Park. It’s a time for the Harriman community and the police department to team up against crime in their neighborhoods. For nearly seven years, the police department has held the event on the first Tuesday in August. One demonstration that had all eyes on it was the K-9 simulation with officers. “Like if you tell them to do something, like if you tell them to bite a guy, they’ll go bite him,” said Austin Swafford of Harriman. Harriman police officers ran two scenarios with their K-9s. One involving a suspect running away and the other if an officer is attacked. “It’s really neat how they can train them to know whether there’s drugs or things that there shouldn’t be in the vehicle or on the person,” said Maryann Hill of Harriman. The event is also supposed to give a message to potential criminals in the area. “It’s a night against crime that we’re here to say we don’t want crime in our city,” said Karen Joseph of the Harriman Police Department. For some, forming that bond with police officers has been a positive experience. “I’ve got one granddaughter that’s involved in this. She’s an explorer with the police department and it helps all these young kids to learn responsibilities and teaches them up the right way,” said Sandra Taylor of Harriman. The goal is that people will create a camaraderie in the neighborhood and a stronger partnership with law enforcement. Harriman’s event falls in line with the national Night Out Against Crime. Since 1984, it has spread to all fifty states and involves nearly 38 million people and more than 16,000 communities. http://www.wate.com/story/26207324/harriman-hosts-night-out-against-crime