By MARIE EDINGER, KMPH
Tulare is located about midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Its police officers are trying to be careful with their wording, being sure not to say they’re “replacing Bane."
Bane is irreplaceable they said. Instead, they’re looking for a new hire.
The Visalia Police Officer’s Foundation is partnering with a few other agencies and handling everything for Tulare Police so they can focus on healing. Visalia is located about 20 minutes from Tulare.
“It’s been a rough process, but we’re getting through it,” Tulare Police Department Sergeant Jon Hamlin said. “No matter what’s going on, we always seem to have people that support us. This is just one of those things that reinforces that. Going through something as difficult as this is, it really helps.”
Tulare is down to three K-9s. Each one costs up to $20,000, and it takes months for officers to pick the dog they think will fit best.
Hamlin said K-9s are crucial to the police department.
“They’re huge,” he said, “because they’re there for the apprehension. Obviously they’re a lot faster than us. If you talk to their handlers, their noses are better than our eyes. For our sakes, they’re one of those extra resources that protect us out there for sure.”
No one knows that better than officer Dan Scott.
“I can’t thank (my dog) enough for the amount of times that maybe just him barking in the background has made sure that I went home safe,” Scott said.
Scott’s been with his K-9 partner, Loki, for seven years.
“We spend more time together than I do with my own family," he said.
Scott says he thinks of Loki the same way he would any other officer — two legs or four. He's certain K-9 officers are worth the investment.
“This job is a dangerous job, and I think we all understand that. But I would not trade this for anything. The highlight of my career will always be working as a K-9 officer,” Scott said.
Since Bane was killed, many people have been asking Tulare police about whether they’ll buy armored vests for the K-9 officers.
“We do want to get everybody outfitted with those for situations when we have time to set the dog up, put the vest on. Maybe on the perimeter of some kind of incident,” Hamlin said.
He said the vests are heavy and hot, so they don’t want to have the dogs wearing them all day.
Bane was just wrapping his first weekend on the job with his handler when Tulare County deputies say a man refused to pull over for police, and eventually fired at officers while two other people were inside his car. Bane was killed by gunfire, and his handler was shot in the hand. That officer had one surgery, and needs one more, but is expected to be fine.