By Joe Gorman
A city police officer is leaving for a new job shortly, and though she has to hand in all her equipment before she goes, there is one piece she would like to keep: her partner.
More specifically, Jessica Shields wants to keep her police dog, Hector, but unless she can raise more than $11,000, she will have to leave him behind.
Shields has been on the city police force for two years and a dog handler for seven months. When she became a handler, she was required to sign a contract stating she had to stay on the job for five years and if she left early, she would be responsible for paying the prorated balance of what it cost to purchase the dog and train the two to work together as a team, said Staff Inspector Lt. Brian Butler.
Shields now must come up with $11,481 to keep Hector. She is leaving for another job with a law-enforcement agency in Columbus. If she cannot come up with the money, Hector will be given to another handler.
Butler said there are no hard feelings toward Shields’ leaving, and the department understands that she has a bond with Hector. But he added the taxpayers made a substantial investment to train the two, and to just give her the dog without a return on the investment would not be fair to them.
“We owe it to the taxpayers to make sure that money is properly allocated and used,” Butler said. “We can’t just give her a $13,000 dog. It’s not fair to the taxpayers.”
Butler said it is hoped Shields can raise the money for the dog, because if not, he would have to be retrained with a new handler, and that does not always work.
“It would be advantageous to us if she could purchase the dog,” Butler said.
Shields, who was out of town last week, said in a series of emails that she is leaving the city police department because the job in Columbus pays a better salary. She has started an online fundraising effort to raise the funds to keep Hector, and she also will use whatever she receives from her severance package to go toward purchasing Hector.
“I love him with all my heart, and the decision to take this job was the hardest one I’ve ever had to make,” Shields said. “But I cannot pass up the opportunity that lies ahead in Columbus.”
So far, Shields has raised about $1,300.
Shields said Hector likes to work and is very friendly “until it’s time to be mean.” Off duty, he is very playful, and he likes to hike and play fetch.
“He is highly intelligent and the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me,” Shields said.
Shields’ online fundraising can be found at www.gofundme.com