Officer Tom Price said the vests for K-9 officer Maz, shown here, and Rocky, will be tailored to fit the dogs.

Officer Tom Price said the vests for K-9 officer Maz, shown here, and Rocky, will be tailored to fit the dogs.

Photo provided by Tom Price


New K-9 vests coming to St. Clair Shores thanks to donation

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 7, 2020

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — St. Clair Shores’ newest K-9 officers will be safer in a few weeks, thanks to a nonprofit group and a local donor.

The Police Department is the recipient of a grant for two ballistic K-9 vests, which are bullet and stab resistant, from Vested Interest in K9s, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that matches local donors with police departments that need new equipment. The vests will be made for K-9 officers Maz and Rocky, the city’s two newest K-9 officers.

The vests are tailored to fit each individual dog and are made by Survival Armor, a company that also makes bullet-resistant vests for human police officers.

Officer Tom Price said the department’s other K-9 officer, Wylie, already had a vest passed down from K-9 officer Axe, Price’s former dog that was killed in the line of duty in November 2018.

Sandy Marcal, president of Vested Interest in K9s, said the Massachusetts nonprofit was established in 2009 to provide bullet and stab resistant vests for working dogs. The organization now also donates medical kits, Narcan kits and even vehicles for police departments around the country to use with their K-9 departments.

“Our goal is to help defray the cost of the K-9 for these departments,” Marcal said.

When Vested Interest in K9s can’t find a donor, it steps in to provide the equipment with money it has raised, she said. A ballistic vest is $960. They are bullet and stab protective, made in the U.S.A., and come with a five-year guarantee.

“We have been very fortunate to donate over 4,000 vests,” Marcal said.

Dogs who qualify for the vests must be at least 20 months old and certified in at least one aspect of police work.

The K-9 officers, Marcal said, need the same protection as human officers.

“They do it all for a reward … all to be told I’m a good boy or a good girl. They do it for the fun — they enjoy working,” she said. “Not only are these dogs part of a department, but they’re part of the officer’s family.

“The dog protects the officer and the officer wants to protect their dog.”

Sharon M. Peters, of Grosse Pointe Shores, is sponsoring the new vests for Maz and Rocky. Peters has been donating equipment to K-9 units in honor and memory of her late father, Detective Lt. Richard J. Scott, of the Roseville Police Department. Since 2015, she said, she has helped 194 different K-9s.

“K-9 (is) an area that the departments or the cities sometimes do not have line items to buy this equipment for them, so they have to rely on donations,” she said.

The first dog she helped was K-9 officer Duke in Grosse Pointe, who received his vest in 2015.

“It just kind of snowballed from there,” she said.

Peters said she enjoys helping St. Clair Shores because her husband was raised in the city and they have a business there, as well.

“You couldn’t find a more professional K-9 unit. The two officers have more personality, they’re so personable, their K-9s are personable,” she said of Price and Officer Travis Kaufman, Rocky’s handler. “I know all three of the K-9 officers there, and what a great bunch of handlers that they have there. They are lucky.

“They are such an asset to the community.”

There are some limitations to the vests, Price said. Dogs can’t regulate their body temperature like humans, so they cannot wear the vests at all times.

“Riding around that car ... we’ve got to keep an eye on the temperature. If they wore (the vest), they’d get overheated,” he said.

Because of that, “going into an incident that’s rapidly developing, like the Axe shooting, there’s no time” to put on the vest.

K-9 officer Axe died in the line of duty Nov. 4, 2018, outside of Lakeland Manor, 26211 Harper Ave., during a shootout that also killed Theoddeus Gray. It is alleged that Gray ran away from police and then turned and fired at police officers and K-9 officer Axe.

Price explained that the vests are a great tool to be used for building searches.

“Doing a search warrant with a SWAT team or looking for a bad guy in a known area and (having) time to put the vest on. It’s not going to be on the dog for a long time, but a majority of the dog will be protected,” he said.

The dogs train with the vests, so they get used to wearing them, he said.

The vests take about eight-12 weeks to be built to the specifications of the dogs, Price said.

Price couldn’t say enough good things about Peters, who he called one of the department’s biggest fans for K-9s.

But Peters said she doesn’t do it for the recognition.

“I don’t do this for me,” Peters said. “I do this to help these handlers and K-9 units.”

Marcal said anyone with a police dog that needs equipment is welcome to apply at vik9s.org. The organization is always looking for new donors, as well.

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