Franklin schools agree to partner with police for K9

Franklin schools will have the first K9 assigned to a school resource officer in the area.

The Franklin Board of Education recently approved the partnership with Franklin police to share in the costs of maintaining a K9 with the resource office that will be trained to detect firearms and explosives.

The board has been considering the partnership since it was proposed by police in the fall.

The proposal for the school K9 was from Officer Jake Lacon following a conversation he had with a building principal, according to Police Chief Adam Colon. A local breeder also identified an English Springer named Maggie.

Lacon told the school board that her breed was selected due to its ability to handle large crowds, and they are often used in airports and by border patrol.

“We believe this might help mitigate threats faster and be a friendly presence in the buildings,” Colon said.

Superintendent Michael Sander said the start-up costs could be as much as $34,450 in the first year that would be split in half with the city, or about $18,726. He said the largest one-time expense for the K9 project would be the outfitting of a cruiser with the appropriate cage, which will cost close to $13,000. Sander said other costs include the price of the K9, veterinarian, food and other miscellaneous costs.

The costs for the second year will be $2,000 with the district paying $1,000, he said.

“We don’t know of any other district in the region that will have a K9,” he said.

Sander had previously said the district is interested in developing the partnership to increase student safety.

Other costs will be for training which is currently being determined by police. Colon said they are trying to locate a class for its K9 to attend for the training. That cost could be free to as much as $8,000 to $10,000, depending on where the K9 is trained for firearms and explosives training, Colon said. He said that training will take about eight weeks because the dog will not have to be trained in tracking and apprehensions. It normally takes about 12 weeks to train a K9 and handler for patrol work.

“We have multiple options to consider,” Colon said.

City officials said Franklin police have responded to five incidents in the 2023-2024 school year that included two bomb threats and three gun threats after school, at a football game and at the school’s homecoming dance. There was also a lockdown in December when an air gun holster was found on a school bus.

During the 2022-2023 school year, police responded to 14 incidents including four bomb threats; airsoft guns; and included kill lists and threats of violence with weapons in elementary schools, according to city officials.

Colon said the Division of Police is working to identify another K9 for patrol duty to replace K9 Fury who died as a result of a traffic crash in November.

City Manager Jonathan Westendorf said he’s “quite proud” of the precedent-setting cooperation between the city and the school district.

“We take the safety of our children extremely seriously, and this move demonstrates that commitment,” Westendorf said. “The disruption to the learning environment when these incidents occur, and the impact upon our public safety services is inexcusable. Our goal is to confidently assess the threat so that we may swiftly take appropriate action.”

Westendorf said, “we feel this joint investment is well justified and perhaps may also be preventative as well.”

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