PLAISTOW — Police Sgt. Alec Porter can remember when he sent his partner in harm’s way without body armor. It troubled him, he said, but he had no choice. His suspect was getting away.
“That’s what the dog’s there for,” Porter said, “but you don’t want to lose them.”
His partner, Kraken, is a Dutch-bred German shepherd trained to track suspects, sniff out drugs and bombs, and get into places where police officers often can’t.
So, it’s no surprise when police demand the same protection and respect for their K-9 counterparts as they get themselves. But when the public agrees and responds, it’s something else altogether.
In June, the department started raising money for two efforts benefiting the town’s police dogs: to buy Kraken a new set of body armor and to erect a memorial in front of the Public Safety Complex honoring Plaistow’s previous and future K-9s.
They needed $8,000 to cover both efforts, but didn’t want either of them to come at taxpayer expense. After the donation drive ended last week, they won’t.
“People were quick with the donations, they were very generous with the donations, and we were thrilled that we were able to move forward with the project that much faster,” Deputy police Chief Kathleen Jones said.
The money was raised through donation cans set up in Plaistow businesses and donations from people who heard the department’s call for support, Jones said.
The contributions included profits from a lemonade stand that 11-year-old Carolynn Kennedy, Allie Ward, 10, and Jessie Ward, 13, operated at the end of the summer.
The largest contribution came from a Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant on the corner of Plaistow and East roads. That donation was $2,500.
Two years ago, the doughnut shop was responsible for donating $7,000 to cover the cost to purchase Kraken, to train him and more, Porter said.
But the armor he had for the last few years was in need of replacement. The Velcro straps weren’t holding anymore and the armor was falling apart.
“At the beginning of Kraken’s career, there was a domestic incident where we had to go off and find someone in the woods,” Porter said. “It was alleged that (the suspect) had a pistol with him.”
Porter tried putting the vest on Kraken, but he was having issues with the straps. He had no choice but to send his partner in without protection after a potentially armed suspect, he said.
“There’s always some trepidation in the moment,” Porter said. “To lose a dog like that is a pity.”
In the end, the suspect wasn’t armed. Now, Kraken won’t be sent in to dangerous situations without protection. In addition, his name is chiseled into the memorial, which was installed in the last couple weeks.
Kraken’s name appears alongside names like Sneaky, Rex and Towser. The three K-9s named before him — Schultz, Rajah and Stryker — were all partnered with Porter.
For Porter, the memorial and new armor show that the public cares about his partner and what he does.
“I think every agency that has a K-9 should have a monument,” Porter said. “They’re the unsung heroes of the Police Department. People often underestimate the tremendous sacrifices they make.”
The response to the call for donations shows that the public wants the same honor for police K-9s that the police themselves seek, according to Jones.
“Police dogs have been a part of Plaistow for many years,” she said. “It’s nice to give them some recognition for the job that they do.”