South Jacksonville K9 Program Ends in Retirement

By Jeremy Coumbes on February 10, 2021 at 10:38am

The Village of South Jacksonville’s Police K9 program is being retired for the time being.

South Jacksonville Chief of Police Eric Hansell says Sargent Andrew Morgan resigned from the South Jacksonville Police Department effective February 4th due to a change in jobs. Hansel says the change for Morgan was family-related.

It was a change he felt he needed to make for him and his family. It wasn’t that he had a distaste for law enforcement or this department in any way. When you have young kids or a new family, it’s hard to work shifts. He increased his pay, it’s just gonna work out better for him. Due to that, the animal that is left behind and right now at our current staffing levels, it’s going to be hard to fill that position.”

Morgan worked the beat in the village with his K9 partner named Luger, who continued to live with the Morgan family in the interim until another handler could be found. Hansell says the Village Police Department is like many across the country right now who are struggling to find candidates for law enforcement positions.

Hansell says to pair Luger with a new partner, they would have to attend a 14 week K9 training program, which is a staff loss he says the department cannot afford to take at this time.

We’re down staff-level, we normally have five to six full-time officers including the Chief. Due to health issues and a military deployment, we are down staffing levels.”

Hansell says he has spoken with the facility that raised and trained Luger as well as the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office along with several others who might have an interest, but in the end, Hansell says no one was in a position to take Luger.

The issue with what to do with Luger was discussed at the Village Board of Trustee’s meeting last week, where the board was left with really only one option. The Board voted unanimously to sell Luger to his handler Andrew Morgan at the fair market value Luger had been appraised at by the company who trained him.

Hansell says at the end of the day, the decision for Luger to move into early retirement is best for all involved.

I’ve seen dogs recycled through two to three handlers before. But the service life expectancy of the dog barring any unforeseen health conditions is about another four years. So you’re looking at another huge investment to get someone trained or a dog that could come up with a health issue or be retired within four years. Right now I believe it is the best move for the dog and the Village of South Jacksonville, and Police Department to retire the program.”

In the sale agreement that makes Luger’s retirement official, the Village is requiring that Luger not be conveyed to another law enforcement agency for use as a police dog. The requirement safeguards the village from possible future liability and moreover ensures Luger can remain in full retirement.

The Board and Chief Hansell are now exploring options on what to do with the K9 unit vehicle. Suggestions of both converting it to a standard cruiser, or selling it as is were both discussed. A final decision however will likely not be made until the next meeting of the Board of Trustees.

Hansell says if staffing levels improve and the Department has someone interested, and support from both the public and the Village is there, then he is would be more than willing to revisit another K9 program. He says though, he can’t guarantee when that would be.