CECIL – Miner, a 7-year-old German shepherd who works as a Cecil Township police dog, panted and squirmed as his K-9 officer dressed him in a new vest, but seemed to quickly adjust to the attire.
“I’m sure Miner doesn’t realize it, but he probably appreciates it, as well,” said state Sen. Tim Solobay, who attended the dedication ceremony Tuesday.
That’s because Miner’s new stab-proof vest could save his life one day. The protective gear, valued at $1,020, was donated to the police department by township residents Darlene and Allen Barni. It was presented to Officer Jeff Holt, Miner’s handler, during a dedication ceremony prior to the township meeting.
Police dogs often face dangerous scenarios – a fact publicized when Rocco, a Pittsburgh police dog, was stabbed to death while chasing a suspect in January. Since then, many departments have purchased new protective gear for their police dogs.
“After Rocco got stabbed and he died, that sent a message to (Allen) and I both,” Darlene Barni said. “My husband said to me, ‘You know Darlene, we spend money on a lot of things that are frivolous.’”
It was at that moment that they decided to make a donation. The couple learned that Miner’s vest protected against bullets, but was not stab proof. The vest also was approaching its expiration date, so they decided to purchase a higher-quality vest.
Allen Barni said it took a while to order a vest for Miner because the companies that manufacture them are so backlogged.
“It took almost nine weeks to get it because since Rocco was killed, all the police departments across the nation have ordered vests for dogs, and we were right in line behind New York City, which ordered 17 of them.”
The couple’s grandchildren, Wyatt Bomberger, 7, and Sam Bomberger, 6, made a short speech that was met with loud applause.
“We are here to present Officer Miner with a police vest to protect him from the bad guys,” said Wyatt Bomberger.
Solobay said “it only makes sense” to provide the same protection to K-9 officers that is available to all police officers.”
“Unfortunately, bad guys and bad girls, they don’t really care if it’s a human or a K-9 officer,” Solobay said. “If they’re out to either try to escape or get away from them, they’re going to do whatever is necessary.”
Rocco’s Law, legislation passed in Pennsylvania in March, created stricter penalties for perpetrators who intentionally injure or kill a police animal.
Police Chief Shawn Bukovinsky said the vest will only be used in high-risk situations, such as when Miner is apprehending a suspect or searching a building before officers enter.
“Obviously, it won’t prevent anything from happening to him,” Bukovinsky said, “but it does give him the upper hand by having that body armor on.”