When bullets start to fly, most law enforcement officers are protected by safety vests. Now, Statesboro police, Georgia Southern University police and Bulloch County sheriff’s K9 partners have that same protection, thanks to donors who provided them with lightweight body armor.
Statesboro Police Cpl. Kyle Briley, who founded the Georgia Police K9 Foundation, said five of six area K9s have received the LOF K9 StreetFighter vests, and the sixth will get his soon.
Statesboro police K9s Mono and Rio, as well as Bulloch County Sheriff’s K9s Gismo and Dutch, were recently fitted with the vests, he said. Pike, a third Bulloch County Sheriff’s K9, will get his vest soon, and possibly the newest K9 at the police department, the bloodhound Smokey, will be fitted as well. The Georgia Police K9 Foundation also purchased a protective vest for Georgia Southern University’s K9 Rocky.
“What is unique about these K9 protective vests is they have a soft body armor specifically constructed to be lightweight,” Briley said. “This helps protect our law enforcement K9s from becoming exhausted from heavier vests, which may cause overheating.”
When a K9 is deployed, he goes to work regardless of weather. “In Georgia, heat indexes can reach over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes. Keeping a K9s body temperature down is crucial while they are working to avoid heat exhaustion or even a heat stroke,” he said. “The fabric in the LOF vest helps regulate the K9's body temperature keeping them comfortable and cool and could potentially to worn for entire shifts so that our four legged officers are protected at all times.”
The vests are bullet resistant and protect the dogs’ vital organs, much like a human officer’s bulletproof vest does.
K9s, the Foundation and what they do
The Georgia Police K9 Foundation expressed gratitude to the sponsors who provided the vests.
“(We) could not be more excited knowing we have assisted in the protection of our K9 officers against work related injuries or worse yet, death.” Briley said.
Susan Mack and the Prissy and Andy Armstrong Foundation provided vests for K9 Mono, K9 Gismo and K9 Dutch. K9 Rio’s vest was sponsored by LOF due to the work Briley and Rio does throughout Georgia. The vests cost $5,000 each, he said.
K9s Rio, Mono, Gismo and Dutch are trained in detecting the odors of narcotics. K9 Gismo and K9 Dutch are trained additionally in tracking and apprehension. K9 Smokey will be used primarily for tracking and recovering missing persons and persons at large. K9 Rocky is trained in explosives detection.
The K9 partners are vital to their department, he said. “Chances are that everyone’s life has been impacted by a K9 in some manner throughout their life and they do not even realize it. Before attending sporting events, concerts, or large functions, explosive detection K9s sweep the areas to ensure a safer environment for those in attendance.
“K9s are important in communities by locating/detecting illegal narcotics, as well as, engaging in the most dangerous settings, while dealing with some of the most violent offenders without hesitation,” he said. “We ask these four-legged heroes to face situations most people would not. Not only do law enforcement K9s assist by enforcing the laws, but also assist with locating a missing child or elderly person.”
Briley, an active law enforcement K9 handler for the Statesboro Police Department, founded the Georgia Police K9 Foundation to assist and provide needs for current and retired K9s.
“Since 2016, the foundation has assisted over 300 K9s throughout the State in some manner,” he said. “The foundation has assisted the local area law enforcement K9s in Bulloch County with over a value of $50,000 worth of protective equipment.” This includes heat alarms, Narcan, medical kits, and vests as well as training and training equipment.
The foundation also takes care of some medical costs for two retired K9s from Statesboro Police Department and Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Briley, Georgia Police K9 Foundation (GPK9F) is an all -volunteer 501(c)3 non-profit organization that “helps raise awareness within the state and the local communities of the infinite contributions made by the police K9s and how they save lives to make our communities safe.
“Our goal is to protect as many of Georgia’s four legged officers by providing them with safety equipment. Once a K9 has retired, the handler will adopt their K9 partner and best friend,” he said. “In the absence of state or local retirement benefits for the K9s, GPK9F will help provide retirement support (food and medical care) for the retired law enforcement K9s, who have unconditionally served their communities for years.”
To offer help, get more information or make a tax-deductible donation, access the website GPK9F.org or mail checks to: Georgia Police K9 Foundation, 28 East Main Street, Statesboro, Georgia 30458.
Those interested may also follow Georgia Police K9 Foundation on Facebook and Instagram.