Polk police raise money for K9 officer

In this five-year-old photo, Polk Borough police K9 officer Vilko is sworn in for duty. Pictured are district judge Patrick Lowrey, Polk police Sgt. Alan Heller and Vilko. (Submitted photo)

Polk Borough police are raising money for a new K9 officer.

Vilko, the department’s current K9 officer, is nearing retirement age, said Sgt. Alan Heller, Vilko’s handler and partner. Vilko is 10 years old and will probably be retiring in about one year, Heller said.

The police department is starting fundraising now so that they have the money to purchase a new K9 upon Vilko’s retirement, Heller said. Various fundraising efforts so far have brought in about $7,000 and the police department needs to raise $14,000 to purchase a dog and to pay for its training.

Vilko was purchased as a puppy from the Czech Republic, Heller said. The K9 joined the police force in November 2007 when he was one year old. Since that time, Vilko has assisted in numerous drug busts and has been called out to every police department in Venango County, Heller said.

Vilko is trained to track and detect drugs as well as to perform building, area and article searches and patrol, Heller said.

“He’s my back-up,” he said.

Vilko’s most notable bust happened in 2010 when he found 17 baggies of cocaine in a vehicle during a drug search. The suspect in that case was charged and went to jail.

The borough’s new K9 officer will receive the same training as Vilko, Heller said. The police department will likely bring in another Belgian Malinois from the Czech Republic as those dogs have good genetics and fewer health problems, he added.

“Malinois seem to go a little bit longer than German Shepherds,” Heller said. Vilko is still in good health, he said.

Upon his retirement, Vilko will spend the rest of his days at home with Heller.

The Polk Borough police department employs two full-time officers, Heller and chief Ed Sharp, and part-time patrolman Jarrod Deeter. The officers provide law enforcement coverage for seven different boroughs in Venango County.

The department is planning some upcoming events to raise money for a new K9 officer. Additionally, donations may be sent to Polk Borough Crime Watch, 196 Church St., P.O. Box 1037, Polk, Pa., 16342.