Fundraising efforts underway for East Greenbush Police Department’s K9 program

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EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The East Greenbush Police Department was recently approved for a K9 program, but it’s going to cost a significant amount of money to get it up and running. 

Back in 1985, the department started a K9 program, but once the handler, Sergeant Rick Kemner, retired in 2007, the program was disbanded. Now, Officer Edward (Josh) Witko is determined to bring it back. He told NEWS10 ABC there are countless benefits to having a well-trained K9 working for the department.

“Whether it’s searching for narcotics in a vehicle, searching for missing vulnerable adults, or just as a general deterrence of crime in the area,” said Officer Witko.

He said, oftentimes, when they need the assistance of a K9, they have to call in from other departments, and sometimes the delayed response time hinders their investigation.

“When you need a K9, you need it right then and there,” said Officer Witko.

Officer Witko added that if East Greenbush were to receive a K9, they would be able to quickly help their surrounding mutual aid communities such as North Greenbush, Rensselaer, and Schodack. 

Officer Witko said when Elaine Rudzinski was appointed as the new police chief in 2019, she met with her staff to hear about their visions for the department. That’s when Officer Witko first introduced the idea of bringing back the K9 program. He said, while the Chief had always been in support of the idea, it ultimately came down to finances.

After months of discussions and a series of presentations, Officer Witko recently got the thumbs up from the town board to start pursuing fundraising options. The initial start up is costly; it’s estimated at around $25,000. That’s just to purchase the dog, get the necessary equipment, pay for training, vet care and food. That amount does not include a dedicated K9 vehicle.

“Ideally, we would want a new vehicle, but if we don’t raise the funds, we could potentially outfit an existing vehicle,” said Officer Witko.

Town Supervisor Jack Conway said while a K9 program is expensive, the return is invaluable. He said the goal is to raise as much money as they can through grants and contributions, then figure out how much money they’ll have to come up with to fill the gap.

“I think the community is going to get behind this. I don’t think they need to be sold on it. I think we just need to get the information out, and it will sell itself,” said Conway.

Officer Witko has taken it upon himself to go business to business asking for donations. He also created a campaign through “Fund the First”. It’s the first and only verified crowdfunding platform for first responders and military personnel. It’s run entirely by first responders, and they vet out every single campaign to make sure it’s legitimate and that the money is going to the intended beneficiary.

Founder and CEO of “Fund the First”, Robert Garland, is a detective with the New York Police Department. He told NEWS10 he’s confident Officer Witko will get the support he needs.

“If they can raise these funds to get this started, again, it would really be incredible for the department,” said Garland.

Officer Witko said, altogether, within the last two weeks, they’ve raised $8,000 to $10,000.

“I’m feeling confident that people want this here in East Greenbush. The community, the department and the town are all going to come together to make this happen,” said Witko.

While it’s not yet clear it Officer Witko would be assigned as the handler, he said it’s always been a dream of his and that he’s fully prepared for the job. 

If you’re interested in contributing to the K9 program, you can also e-mail Officer Witko directly at ewitko@egpolice.org or call (518) 479-2525.

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