Controversy over Sheffield Lake Mayor’s decision to pull the plug on police K9 unit

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 10:30 PM EST
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SHEFFIELD LAKE, Ohio (WOIO) - Sheffield Lake’s Mayor pulled the plug on its police K9 program six months after they started it. The police union is furious, and the mayor is defending his decision.

Sheffield Lake Mayor Dennis Bring said he ended the program temporarily because they needed a new police vehicle. The police union said the mayor’s rash decision is a slap in the face to the community who donated money to make the program happen.

Six months ago, the Sheffield Lake community and local businesses donated $10,000 towards training for Lenny the K9 and his handler. The city then spent $50,000 on a brand-new cruiser specifically outfitted for the K9.

“This is not about a police vehicle,” said Brian Holb, General Counsel for the Ohio Patrolman’s Benevolent Association. “This is about the mayor’s ego.”

19 News asked the mayor for an on-camera interview. He declined but did tell us over the phone that he ended the program because he needed the K9 vehicle. He said the police union took one of their F150 cars because it was not pursuit ready. The mayor said he didn’t believe that mattered since they don’t allow pursuits in city limits. Holb said they brought the issues with the car to the mayor’s attention because they didn’t want an officer or civilian to get hurt.

“It’s a stock model that like you or I could go to the local ford dealer and buy and the reason that’s important is because Ford actually makes a specific pursuit-rated F150 that has upgraded equipment to be able to handle the rigors of police work long idling times that sort of stuff,” Holb explained.

Mayor Bring said after that car was pulled out of the rotation, he needed another one and the only option was to take the K9 vehicle until they can get another car, but he said right now he was not going to spend $65,000 on a new car.

Holb claims the mayor’s decision to end the K9 program came shortly after the k9 officer made a report of unsafe working conditions due to mold growing in the police station.

“The company that was hired to do the mitigation of the mold has recently given the city a proposal of $20,000 to mitigate that problem,” Holb said.

Holb believes the mayor ending the K9 program was retaliation for the officer reporting unsafe working conditions.

“Look I believe it was because the unsafe working conditions were reported,” said Holb. “I believe it’s because us as the union have attempted to hold the city accountable under the collective bargaining agreement on a healthcare issue and we also believe it’s because another member of the police department was recently made a union leader and that person is also been experiencing retaliation towards them.”

A state statute allows the K9 handler to buy the dog for $1. Holb calls it “a very expensive house pet.” He tells me he plans to bring up these issues at Tuesday’s city council meeting and he will also be filing an unfair labor practice claim of retaliation with the state.