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Chevrier selected as NRPD canine handler

Officer Katie Chevrier is the new canine handler at the New Richmond Police Department. (Submitted photo)

New Richmond

Efforts to bring a K-9 dog to the city of New Richmond's Police Department kicked up a notch this week when the department announced that officer Katie Chevrier was selected to become the local office's canine handler.

But there is some distance to travel for the program to be established.

In all, the department is hoping to raise $50,000 over the course of the next several months to cover the initial start-up costs for a program in New Richmond.

The department, without any type of promotion, has already had nearly $7,000 donated.

That, according to police chief Craig Yehlik, is "exciting" and a huge step in getting the program fundraiser off to a fast start.

To begin, the department plans to start selling T-shirts with a special K-9 logo within the next couple of weeks — a logo that was designed by Sgt. Jake Sather.

But that will be just the beginning of fundraisers expected to be held both in conjunction with upcoming community events, as well as standalone fundraisers that will be announced in the coming weeks.

The idea for a K-9 at the New Richmond department germinated several months ago — an idea that sprang from need.

Over the years, the city of Hudson has had a K-9, as has the county sheriff's department. However, the need in New Richmond became evident over the past few years as a large majority of cases involving the use of a K-9 was in New Richmond and the surrounding area.

"We really feel there's a need for it with the drug work we've done ... but there are so many uses for these dogs," Yehlik said.

"We want a multi-use dog ... We want a dog that can track kids and adults that walk away from a home. We can track people a lot faster when they walk away. We have the 'Project Lifesaver' program available, but all the equipment is in Hudson. So if we have someone walk away, whether it's an autistic child or somebody suffering from dementia, it could be 30 minutes for somebody to go down to Hudson and bring the equipment back here. That's a great tool, but when it's 20 below zero, do we have a half-hour? Or when it's 100 degrees ... sometimes time is of the essence."

Yehlik also said that having a dog with the department would help expedite matters on investigations of all types. In addition, a dog would help assist the department with officer safety and with public relations.

"It's a huge deterrent," said Jim Jackson, the city council alderman who sits on the committee charged with bringing the program to fruition.

"And as for officer safety ... you can have a dog clear a building faster than two officers," Jackson said. "To me, that's at the top of the list. It's a huge deal to have a dog for officer safety."

For officer Chevrier, the opportunity to be the department's handler has been earned. She was selected by the committee because of her experience with dogs, among other factors.

"I'm a certified dog trainer; I volunteer at rescues in the area and help with training dogs," Chevrier said. "I have my own dogs and have trained them. I look forward to the whole community relations part. Having the dog will help with that, it will help with children and it will help with the morale of the community."

But receiving a dog isn't as easy as picking one out of a litter through a store window.

It will take $50,000 to start and much training on the part of the dog and Chevrier.

The department has reserved a spot with the St. Paul Police Department K-9 training program for March 2018 in hopes that the money will be raised by that time.

The initial start-up funds will be used for that training, for the dog, and for special equipment that must be purchased for the police squad car and other needs.

"We have a year to fundraise but hope to get done in less than a year," Jackson said.

Yehlik said the reason for the fundraising is to lessen the load on the community.

"We're trying to do this with as little impact on the taxpayer as possible," Yehlik said. "From what we've seen with other agencies that have done this, we have seen so much overwhelming support for a dog. We've seen others do it and it's not a difficult fundraiser. We're hoping that's the case in the city of New Richmond. Every penny helps, whether someone wants to donate $10 or $10,000."

The department's core philosophy of building partnerships with the community and establishing community policing will be enhanced with the addition of a K-9, Yehlik said.

"If we build partnerships with the community and the schools, that's what we are looking for. And Katie is selling herself short ... she was able to ask a lot of questions [while being interviewed for the position]. This will be a huge commitment for Katie ... kudos to her for making the commitment for the department," Yehlik added.

"We feel it's very important to make New Richmond a safe place to live. This will help. There will be the educational aspect of having a dog — working with the schools and community — so there's various aspects of this program that will help provide that safe community," Yehlik said.

"This will be a tremendous tool for the department," Jackson said.

All donations for the program are being handled through the New Richmond Area Community Foundation.

To donate, send to the New Richmond Area Community Foundation, P.O. Box 96, New Richmond, WI 54017, and note "New Richmond K-9 Fund" in the memo.