The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona announced that all 13 of its K-9 officers are now outfitted with bullet and stab protective vests, thanks to a Massachusetts-based non-profit that outfits K-9 officers around the country with protective vests.
“Many times our K-9s are also on patrols and they deserved to be protected just as much as our men and women in uniform,” Sheriff Joe Arpaio said in a statement released by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Vested Interest in K-9s presented the K-9 officers with the vests in a May 19 news conference held at the sheriff’s office. Walter Flynn, a retired law enforcement officer who has been working with the non-profit for about four years, told The Arizona Republic that he was shocked to find out during a previous visit that none of the 13 K-9 officers in the sheriff’s department were outfitted with protection.
“I made it my special project to get that done here,” Flynn told The Republic.
The vests, which cost $1,050 each, were paid for with public and private donations to Vested Interest in K-9s, according to The Republic. The non-profit has donated more than 1,900 vests to law enforcement agencies throughout the United States.
The K-9 officers will wear the vests only during high-risk operations, Deputy Mario Gonzalez told The Republic.
“It really depends on the danger and risk of the situation,” he said.
In addition to working routine patrols in Maricopa County, the K-9 officers also work SWAT operations and are contracted out for narcotics and explosive ordinance detection for local, state and federal agencies, the sheriff’s office said.