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Sullivan Police Department drops plan to create canine unit

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SULLIVAN —  Chief Andrew Pistorius said the Sullivan Police Department has opted to not move forward with creating a canine program due to new state use-of-force guidelines for law enforcement agencies.

Pistorius said his understanding of the SAFE-T Act that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law in February is that this criminal justice reform law will increase use-of-force guidelines on police canines being used to apprehend subjects. He said law enforcement agencies will be exposed to more legal liability for taking this action.

"For us being a small community and a small department, it's unfortunately not going to work for us," Pistorius said of creating a canine unit.

The Sullivan Police Department had planed to obtain a "dual purpose" canine that could handle apprehensions and drug detection, Pistorius said. Moving forward with a "single purpose" canine focused solely on drug detection would not be worth the training and operations expenses, he said. 

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In February, the Sullivan Police Department put its first canine, Renzo, into service. However, the department reported that the dog died later that month due to a previously undiagnosed medical condition.

Pistorius said Sullivan will continue requesting assistance from canine units with the Arthur Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff's Office, Illinois State Police, and other agencies for its police canine needs.

"We do work well with other agencies. We do have access to that," Pistorius said. "We have those other options, too."

The Sullivan Police Department will return donations that it has received to help start a canine program and give that money to a charity, the chief said.


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