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South Williamsport, PA
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City Police K9 Program in Full Swing

City Police K9 Program in Full Swing
Brian Lewis, Ciocca Area Manager and Gregg Ciocca, CEO/Owner, present a check to help fund the Bureau’s K9 Unit to Chief Daman Hagan, former mayor Gabe Campana and Councilwoman Bonnie Katz. (Photo courtesy of Ciocca Dealerships.)

Due to the generous donations, the largest of which was $43,000 made by Greg Ciocca on behalf of Ciocca Toyota dealerships, the first K9 unit in many years has been working the streets of Williamsport. The generous donation enabled the Williamsport Bureau of Police (WBP) to send Police Officer Tyson Minier and his four-legged partner,

Due to the generous donations, the largest of which was $43,000 made by Greg Ciocca on behalf of Ciocca Toyota dealerships, the first K9 unit in many years has been working the streets of Williamsport. The generous donation enabled the Williamsport Bureau of Police (WBP) to send Police Officer Tyson Minier and his four-legged partner, Tacoma, to training school and get the program off the ground earlier this year.

Tacoma, named after the Toyota brand truck, and his handler, Police Officer Tyson Minier, will be working primarily in the City of Williamsport. However, the team will also be assisting other police departments in the region. Tacoma is a dual-purpose, patrol, and drug dog.

“This is the first of three K-9 teams that will eventually make-up our K9 Unit,” said WBP Chief Daman Hagan. The second K9 team, consisting of Sgt. Brian McGee and dual-purpose police dog, Niko, is expected to hit Williamsport’s streets later this year. Like Tacoma, Niko will work as a patrol and drug dog. “The presence of trained K9 units has been proven to have a dramatic and positive effect on combating street crime and an immediate impact on public safety.”

Chief Hagan went on to say that K9 units save lives, and simply the arrival of a K9 unit on a scene often prevents crime. K9 units are used to apprehend criminals during burglaries and on other police calls. In addition, many police dogs have specialized training that allows them to detect the presence of drugs such as fentanyl. This enables officers to get such drugs off of the street, thus saving lives.

A third K9 team is expected to be in place in the near future and will be led by handler Officer Zachary Geary. This third team would also have a dual-purpose dog and, along with patrol skills, would be specially trained as an explosives dog. This skill set would include detecting explosive devices, gunshot residue, spent shells, and locating firearms, among other things. According to Chief Hagan, such a team would prove to be extremely useful in cases such as bomb threats at schools and government buildings, and events such as the Little League World Series. “Having these K9 units means that we do not have to wait for state and federal resources.”

When asked how Tacoma was performing in the field, Officer Minier was very positive. “We have been on the streets for a few months now, and things are going very well. I am constantly amazed by Tacoma’s capabilities.” The team has already been successfully involved in narcotics incidents and has received requests for assistance from the State Police and South Williamsport Police Departments.
The new K9 unit makes a total of three such units in the region, with the other two located with the Hughesville and Jersey Shore police departments. With two more teams coming soon, regional police will have six K9 units on the street, assisting efforts to combat crime in the area.

When asked about how the K9 unit spends a typical day, Officer Minier responded, “When we are not on patrol, we are always training. We run training exercises in various environments because we have to be ready to work in any setting. Local businesses have been great at allowing us to train on their properties and in buildings. We are on 24/7, 365 days per year, and have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, so the more experience we have, the better.”

When asked about the response from the public, Officer Minier said that it has been very positive. “People enjoy seeing Tacoma. When they see us training, they like to watch, and I’ll explain what we are doing. Once they understand, they are very positive about seeing us on patrol. This is a game-changer.”

According to Chief Hagan, these initiatives would not have been possible without the efforts of a dedicated group of people. The idea of reviving the K9 program began when Constable Peter DiBartolomeo approached Councilwoman Bonnie Katz. Councilwoman Katz then approached Chief Hagan. Through ad hoc meetings and other discussions, plans were set in motion.

Officials decided early on that funding for the program would be made through private donations. The Young Men’s Republican Club jump-started funding for the second K9 team with a donation of $15,000.
“None of this would have been possible without the support of the City Council, the Mayor, Ciocca Dealerships, the Young Men’s Republican Club, and many others,” said Chief Hagan.

The breakdown of approximate costs includes $34,042.00 for the first team, $29, 233.12 for the second team, and approximately $30,355 for the third team. The K9 Academy for drug dog teams includes a cost of $14,500 for the procurement of a dog and for the training of the handler and dog. This also includes additional equipment, food, and housing of the officer during training. Other program costs include an expected $5000/year for maintenance training (8 hours every two weeks), $1,400 to build a kennel at each K9 officer’s home, $700 per year for dog food for each dog, $1,700 for a bite suit, $632/year for standard veterinary bills (not including injuries), $450.00 for proper bite sleeves for training, $250 for an E Collar, and varying costs for other additional miscellaneous equipment.

People or companies that are interested in donating to the police K9 program should go to the Williamsport Bureau of Police Facebook page for ways to help. On the Facebook page, people will find information about the program and a K9 Unit donation form that should be filled out and sent in with a check (please follow instructions on the form). Donors are encouraged to donate to the WBP Canine (K9) Unit. When requests are any more specific, it limits what the funds can be used for, and the money may not be usable for some time, depending on the needs of the team.

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