GROSSE POINTE CITY — The recent loss of K-9 Officer Raleigh — and the positive impact he made as a crime-fighter and a popular fixture during events and school programs — has many in the community urging City leaders to purchase a new K-9.
Raleigh’s handler, Sgt. Michael Almeranti, has already been fully trained in this job — in fact, Almeranti can now train others — and the City has a public safety vehicle outfitted for a K-9, but City leaders say there’s more involved than purchasing a new dog.
In only a few days, City resident Eleise Garrett said she collected about 91 petition signatures calling for a new K-9 from residents of the City and other Grosse Pointes, along with Village business representatives.
“The public really is in support of this,” said Garrett, offering to collect additional signatures. She said the dog could make money for the City via vehicle seizures and the like.
“I think the City really benefits from (the K-9 program),” she said. “It makes the officer much more approachable.”
City resident Brian Leslie, who successfully raised money for a bulletproof vest for Raleigh a number of years ago, said he was “still willing” to undertake another fundraising effort for a new dog when he addressed the City Council at a meeting Jan. 27. Another City resident, John Hartz, also asked City officials where they were with regard to getting a new dog.
Mayor Dale Scrace said Public Safety Director Stephen Poloni “is in charge of (this project) on behalf of the City” and called it “an ongoing process.”
Poloni noted that the K-9 program had, at one time, been on the chopping block for the 2013 fiscal year, as budget cuts in the department forced him to find ways to reduce expenses. However, thanks to contributions from neighboring departments that also used Raleigh’s services, as well as donations, Poloni said they were able to keep the program.
“We are looking at the best way to fund the dog and use it for the Grosse Pointes,” he said. “Currently, I am working (toward that goal) with some outside partners.”
Poloni said they’re considering corporate funding, as well, and he was slated to meet with other local public safety directors to figure out how to best cooperatively cover K-9 expenses.
“We are moving forward with it,” insisted Poloni, adding that he hoped to have more information on the plan and where funds might be coming from during the council’s next meeting Feb. 24.
“It’s not as easy as just going out and buying a dog,” City Council member Christopher Boettcher said. Still, he voiced support for a new K-9.
“My recommendation is to keep pushing our city leaders to take a harder look at the K-9,” he said. While Boettcher admitted that it’s “an expensive proposition” and one that shouldn’t be made at the expense of a public safety officer, he acknowledged possibilities for paying for the K-9 through fundraising and other channels.
City Council member Jean Weipert said she was in “100 percent agreement” with Boettcher, calling the purchase of Raleigh “an extremely positive action.”
“There is no lack of support for a K-9 in Grosse Pointe,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is act in a prudent manner.”
Weipert said community pressure was on the City because the City “stepped up to the plate and bought Raleigh” in the first place in 2005.
City Council member Andrew Turnbull said they would “love to find a way” to replace Raleigh, but he said there are “so many considerations” to weigh first.
City Council member Donald Parthum said Raleigh was a great public relations tool, as well as a great aid in law enforcement, connecting as he did with residents of all ages. He said he was “all for” another K-9 if they could resolve funding and other issues.
Scrace acknowledged that Raleigh has “got a special place in all of our hearts” and “proved his merit over the years.”
“I’m hopeful and optimistic the chief, working with other chiefs, will be able to come up with some other funding mechanism (for the K-9),” City Council member John Stempfle said.
The next regular City Council meeting was slated to take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 24 in council chambers. For an agenda or more information, visit www.grossepointecity.org.