Bellows Falls will no longer have a K9 unit. Caesar, a seven year old Belgian Malinois, has been a part of the Bellows Falls police department for about five years. On Tuesday night, the Bellows Falls village board of trustees voted 3 to 2 to eliminate Caesars position.
Sergeant Mario Checchi, Caesar’s handle says, “I don’t hold anyone responsible for taking him away. I respect the trustee’s decision to want to save money, could it have been different, sure.”
Sergeant Checchi says Caesar is a drug detection k-9 but he also does tracking and evidence recovery. Checchi says their main focus in the village and if they have to leave, they make sure the village is well staffed. In 2017, the duo won the co-drug detection team of the year for the Vermont Canine Association.
“We have had some pretty significant seizures. I mean roughly, him and I seized over ten thousand bags of heroin since he started in 2015” said Checchi.
In 2015, they seized $15,000 in counterfeit one hundred dollar bills. Checchi says he believes this is one of the largest counterfeit money seizures in New England.
James McAuliffe, one of the board members who voted in favor of doing away with Caesar, says it is a cost saving item. He says when you have a canine, you have to have a full time officer that is responsible for the dog and you need a police vehicle outfitted for the dog.
“Unfortunately it was the three thousand of our residents who were paying the tab. In refocusing, in my opinion, to refocus the department, I thought like other communities in our area we needed to rely on the state police and their k9 unit” said McAuliffe.
According to Sergeant Checci, since Caesar has started, the department has received over $10,000 in donations from various organizations. A local pet shop in town donated Caesar’s food and a spin class raised additional funds for him.
Sergeant Checci said, “We are roughly down to just under four thousand dollars now that’s left in the fund. What that pays for is his vet bills, any equipment.”
James said in repurposing the department, he wants to see police focus more on specific issues that they prioritize in the village. He also said that for a small village, they need to put the money where it is going to be most effective.
“The utilization of the dog, relative to the village of bellow falls was not deemed to be that significant” said McAuliffe.
Sergeant Cheechi says not having Caesar with him at work is hard on both him and the dog.
“As far as not having him and the feeling I get, it’s tough. You know I am so used to having him every day be with me. You know, it’s your partner” said Checchi.
Mario is still continuing to train Caesar to make sure his skills are sharp.