By ARDEN BASTIA The Warwick Police K-9 Unit is hosting a fundraiser June 5 at the Apponaug Brewing Company, located at 334 Knight Street. Attendees have the chance to bid on more than 100 raffle items, while enjoying the brewery's new beer garden.
The Warwick Police K-9 Unit is hosting a fundraiser June 5 at the Apponaug Brewing Company, located at 334 Knight Street. Attendees have the chance to bid on more than 100 raffle items, while enjoying the brewery’s new beer garden. Admission is free and open to the public. All proceeds will benefit K-9 Garry and Haki.
To promote the event, K-9 officers have brought the dogs to public events, like a demonstration at the Oakland Beach Boys and Girls Club, and an appearance on the Rhode Show on June 3.
Officers Tim Lipka and Aaron Steere introduced K-9 Haki and Garry to students at the Boys and Girls Club last Thursday, where they performed a training demonstration.
The kids were fascinated with Garry and Haki, asking hard-hitting questions like, “Do dogs eat bugs?” and “Why did God make dogs?”
Garry and Haki will be part of the Warwick Police force for eight or nine years.
“I remember meeting the K-9 dogs as a kid,” said Lipka, who credits his positive interactions with the police as an influence on his career choice.
Prior to the COVID pandemic, Officer Lipka and Steere would regularly take the K-9 dogs to local schools and libraries. Now that COVID regulations have eased, the officers are looking forward to resuming the programming.
“Kids really seem to like it,” said Steere on Thursday. “They’re impressionable at this age and we want them to know they can come to us despite what they might hear at home or on the news or in media.”
Haki and Garry are double trained, according to Steere, which means they’re trained in both drug detection and patrol work. The dogs, both purebred German Shepherds, are from Slovakia, and joined the Warwick police force when they were about a year old. Steere, Garry’s handler, boasted that Garry joined the force “when he was just 10 months old.”
The dogs undergo six months of training before they’re ready for fieldwork. They’re trained in obedience and odor tracking for drugs, humans, and explosives, as well as mastering a series of commands.
German Shepherds are the most common choice for police dogs, as they’re “extremely fast, and highly intelligent, with strong bites and excellent eyesight and hearing,” explained Steere.
Lipka explained that while the dogs are trained in narcotics and other drugs, they aren’t trained in marijuana detection. “We anticipate legalization,” he said, and the focus of the K-9 team is to apprehend “more serious and dangerous drugs.”
However, the Warwick K-9 Unit wouldn’t be able to serve the community without the dedicated help from local business owner Debbie Wood.
“Debbie is a godsend,” said Steere of Wood, the fundraising coordinator for the Warwick Police Department, and who, in the past, raised funds to purchase night vision equipment and upgraded body armor for officers.
Wood is the owner of Wood Boat and Motor, Inc. and shares the location with her son Jason, who is the proprietor of the craft jam joint We be Jammin’.
Originally from Smithfield, the Woods were instrumental in starting a Smithfield K-9 unit. When moving the We Be Jammin’ business to Warwick, Wood said it was “a perfect opportunity” to support the Warwick community.
The event on June 5 isn’t the first time the Woods have shown their support for local law enforcement.
Wood started We Be Jammin’ about six years ago, and saw it as a chance for Jason, who is severely autistic and mostly non-verbal, to grow his social interaction and engage with the community in a meaningful and enjoyable way.
Since then, We Be Jammin’ has consistently donated proceeds to K-9 units in both Smithfield and Warwick.
When former Governor Gina Raimondo announced the Take It Outside initiative to reopen the state, Wood was able to secure grant money to fund an outdoor marketplace in Pawtuxet Village Park last fall, where Wood proved her fundraising abilities.
“We figured out that we’re kind of really good at raising money,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. “The community police force is open and welcome for the help. They’re eager to help the community and we want to help them.”
For Wood, helping the police department is personal. She explained that in the event Jason was to wander off or go missing, “the first thing they would do is send in the dogs.”
“I hope I never need to call them, but if we did, I hope to have the peace of mind that the unit is well-funded. It makes my heart smile to be part of a larger community, and hopefully we can pull some big numbers on Saturday,” said Wood.
Officer Steere explained that while the department does provide K-9 equipment, funds from the event would go towards purchasing an outdoor kennel for Garry and Haki at the police station, as well as a covered carport to provide protection from the elements for the dogs while they’re in the police cars. Any additional funds will go towards training opportunities for Steere and Lipka, like the event they attended last week to learn about K-9 first aid.
For the event on Saturday, June 5 at Apponaug Brewery, Wood is “so grateful” to owner Tamara McKenney, who donated the space and to the local businesses that have donated over 100 raffle items for the silent auction.