K9 officer Rex of the Twin Lakes Police Department will be sold for $18,000 to his former partner Joe Patla after the public raised $12,855 to keep the founding pair of the local K9 unit together.
“I am truly overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of support from our community,” Patla, who took a position with another department, wrote in a statement. “Words cannot express my sincere gratitude.”
The Village Board, which initially denied Patla’s request to purchase Rex for $6,000, reversed its decision Monday. It voted 4-3 to sell Rex to Patla, contingent on a “final agreement” being signed by Patla and the Twin Lakes Police Association. The head of the association said following the meeting it will support the agreement provided by the Village Board.
Trustee Kevin Fitzgerald asked to discuss the amount prior to the vote.
Fitzgerald said he believed the cost to purchase a new dog and to train that dog and its handler to be $16,000. He said he did not believe the village should “profit from the situation.”
President Howard Skinner said the village would not profit and the costs today may be more than three years ago.
Police Chief Adam Grosz said the department was “blessed” to have a K9 as good as Rex, a 4-year-old German shepherd.
“Since being sworn in as a Twin Lakes police K9, Rex has helped take drugs off of our street. He’s helped apprehend violent offenders. He has been there to not only protect the citizens, but also to protect the officers,” Grosz said.
Rex has lived with Patla since 2017, when Patla started the K9 program at the department. The cost of purchasing Rex and training both Rex and Patla was covered by donations from the community.
The initial decision by the Village Board on how to proceed was bound by an agreement reached with the police association when the K9 program began. According to that agreement, the K9 handler must agree to serve a six-year term. If the handler chooses to leave prior to the retirement of the K9 — such is the case in this situation — the K9 remains the property of the village of Twin Lakes. Had Rex and Patla retired, the contract would have allowed Patla to take ownership of Rex.
“From the moment we heard about (Patla) voluntarily leaving the Twin Lakes Police Department, it has been the mission of myself and my administration to objectively evaluate and decide the best outcome for the community, for the police department and for K9 Rex,” Grosz said.
He said the bond between the partners was considered, as was the potential harm of removing a working dog from service.
“If one subject matter expert we talked to would have said Rex would in any way be harmed by retaining him in our community, I would have instantly fought to allow (him to go with Patla,),” Grosz said.
Grosz said the expert opinion was that K9s like Rex are “happiest and healthiest when they are doing what they are trained to do.”
“It was a personal decision,” Grosz said of Patla’s decision to leave the department. “It does not mean Rex has to prematurely end his law enforcement career. All of the members of the police department are in support of K9 Rex staying and contributing to help serve this community.”
Skinner and trustees Barb Andres and Sharon Bower cast the dissenting votes. Trustees Fitzgerald, Aaron Karow, Jeremy Knoll and Bill Kaskin voted in favor of selling Rex.
“I feel that I and the Village Board have been backed into a corner,” Skinner said, adding Patla not only broke the agreement but “asked for a parting gift on top of it.”
“This will not happen again on my watch,” Skinner said.
Patla said he hopes the community continues to support the local department, the K9 program and the Village Board.
“There are a great group of men and women serving the community on the front lines and behind the doors of the police department,” his statement reads. “The Village Board has and will continue to serve the community well. Please continue to support them as they will no doubt continue progressing the community forward.”