RACINE — For Jennifer Johnson, it was a matter of police officer safety.
The 76-year-old Racine woman knew police dogs could go places and perform tasks dangerous for officers. So when the Racine Police Department sought donations for another K9, Johnson offered $40,000.
“It’s my pleasure. I’m very glad I was able to do this for the police department,” Johnson said Monday during a press conference at the police department, 730 Center St. “I think every civilian in Racine should help out the police officers. You put your lives on the line every day.”
With Johnson’s donation added to prior fundraising efforts, the police department now has the about $60,000 needed for the dog, training and equipment, including a K9-compatible squad car that has space for the dog and automatic doors the officer can open using his a button on his belt. The dog and training alone run about $13,000, according to Deputy Chief Dave Smetana. The dog will require months of training before hitting the streets.
The department currently has two dogs. One is used by the drug unit for finding narcotics. The other is the only dog in the department’s K9 unit and is used for drug searches, apprehending individuals during stand-offs, finding people in buildings, tracking people or items, and more, Chief Kurt Wahlen said, explaining those tasks are often done fastest, best and safest by a dog instead of an officer.
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Wahlen said another dog for the K9 unit, a Belgian malinois, is now ordered thanks especially to Johnson, who saw an article about the K9 fundraising effort in The Journal Times and then approached Wahlen at a restaurant.
“She said, ‘I’d like to pay for this dog,’ and I took her up on it,” Wahlen said at Monday’s press conference before turning to Johnson. “We sure appreciate you and your generosity.”
Johnson, who has lived in Racine 54 years, is no stranger to making community donations. While the dog donation comes exclusively from her, she and her husband, who have no relation to the Johnsons of SC Johnson, previously gave money to the Racine Fire Department for heat-seeking cameras and donated land to the Racine zoo after buying and tearing down some houses and a bar that stood along Main and Goold streets, Johnson said.
“I know the Johnson family pretty well and I don’t think I can comprehend all they’ve done,” Wahlen said.
They give because they love Racine and believe in helping the community, Johnson said.
“We have a project and we just do it. We talk it over the two of us and figure if it’s the right thing to do. Then we do it,” Johnson said. “It’s not difficult at all.”