Two new cops are on the beat in Platte County. Canine officers Ajax, handled by deputy Jessica Harrison, and Aries, handled by deputy Matt King, were introduced at the Monday, April 15 county commission administrative session.
The county’s K-9 program suffered a blow when canine officer Diago was forced to retire earlier this year due to health problems. He has since been adopted by his handler, deputy Ian Johns.
Since, the Sheriff’s Office received a donation to fund the purchase, training and equipment for one canine officer, with the county’s portion of money received from federal drug cases funding the other.
“We thought we would use the drug dealers’ money to buy another dog,” said Sheriff Mark Owen in the introduction.
An anonymous donor provided funding for body armor for one dog, with the other inheriting Diago’s armor.
Both dogs are trained in narcotics detection, tracking and suspect apprehension, Owen said. This makes the dogs more versatile than Diago, who was only trained as a narcotics dog.
“We’re looking forward to a long, healthy life for these dogs,” Owen said.
Both dogs — one a Belgian Malinois and one a German shepherd — are young and active. The deputies added that they are trained to be social animals. Citizens who wish to interact with the dogs need only to ask the handler before approaching.
“They’re trained to be social police dogs, so he’s friendly and you can pet him,” Harrison said of Ajax. “He’s only a year and a half old, so he’s still really hyper. He doesn’t mean anything by it, he’s just excited to see you.”
Owen said the dogs will be visiting local schools and visible at events to interact with the public.
One such event will be coming up in May with the third annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Day scheduled for Saturday, May 18 in Platte Landing Park, barring additional flooding.
Commissioners approved May 12-18 as law enforcement appreciation week, with law enforcement memorial day on Wednesday, May 15. Flags around the county will be at half staff that day to remember the 163 line of duty deaths across the country in 2018. Three officers died in Missouri last year and three in Kansas, including the deputies killed in Wyandotte County just outside the county jail.
In Platte County, Maj. Erik Holland said 16 deputies were assaulted in the line of duty last year.
Also at the meeting, resident David Park questioned the commissioners’ handling of its contract for legal services with Graves Garrett Law Firm. Earlier this month, Park wondered why the county paid more than $8,000 for nearly 24 hours worth of work on ballot language for the failed jail tax to Graves Garrett.
The commissioners entered into a contract with Graves Garrett last October at an hourly rate of $375 to handle issues related to the situation at Zona Rosa. Commissioners told Park that they amended the contract with Graves Garrett to expand the scope of services, but were unable to recall the date of that amendment, stating it was done in a work session instead of an administrative session.
Park said his records request had uncovered that the contract amendment had indeed been approved at a January work session and that discussion of that contract – and another contract related to the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s office – were not listed on the agenda of that work session as up for consideration. Typically, while commission work sessions are publicly posted, no details are provided as to the agenda or topics of discussion in the work session.
“I know that’s a standard clause that you use for all your work sessions, just in case something comes up, but if you know something is going to be discussed – especially a contract – I believe that should be called out, specifically mentioned in the agenda for that meeting,” Park said.
Additionally, he said neither contract had been approved by county attorney Bob Shaw or county auditor Kevin Robinson prior to their approval.
“I’m very concerned with how these contracts have been handled,” Park said.
Commissioner offered no response to his comments.
According to the commission’s calendar, they are scheduled to meet in a closed session with Graves Garrett attorneys at their downtown office on Friday, April 19.